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Has TriMas Corporation (NASDAQ:TRS) Been Employing Capital Shrewdly?

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Today we'll evaluate TriMas Corporation (NASDAQ:TRS) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. Renowned investment researcher Michael Mauboussin has suggested that a high ROCE can indicate that 'one dollar invested in the company generates value of more than one dollar'.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

Analysts use this formula to calculate return on capital employed:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)

Or for TriMas:

0.12 = US$129m ÷ (US$1.2b - US$135m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, TriMas has an ROCE of 12%.

View our latest analysis for TriMas

Is TriMas's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see TriMas's ROCE is around the 11% average reported by the Machinery industry. Regardless of where TriMas sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

Our data shows that TriMas currently has an ROCE of 12%, compared to its ROCE of 6.1% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how TriMas's past growth compares to other companies.

NasdaqGS:TRS Past Revenue and Net Income, February 27th 2020
NasdaqGS:TRS Past Revenue and Net Income, February 27th 2020

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for TriMas.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect TriMas's ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

TriMas has current liabilities of US$135m and total assets of US$1.2b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 11% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

The Bottom Line On TriMas's ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, TriMas could be worth a closer look. TriMas shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Thank you for reading.