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Are Unisys Corporation’s (NYSE:UIS) High Returns Really That Great?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Unisys Corporation (NYSE:UIS) 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.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since 'No two businesses are exactly alike.'

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 Unisys:

0.12 = US$204m ÷ (US$2.5b - US$872m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Unisys has an ROCE of 12%.

Check out our latest analysis for Unisys

Does Unisys Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, we find that Unisys's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 9.9% average in the IT industry. I think that's good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Regardless of where Unisys sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

The image below shows how Unisys's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:UIS Past Revenue and Net Income, August 23rd 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do Unisys's Current Liabilities Skew Its 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.

Unisys has total assets of US$2.5b and current liabilities of US$872m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 35% of its total assets. With this level of current liabilities, Unisys's ROCE is boosted somewhat.

Our Take On Unisys's ROCE

Unisys's ROCE does look good, but the level of current liabilities also contribute to that. Unisys 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.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.