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Universal Forest Products, Inc. (NASDAQ:UFPI) Earns A Nice Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Universal Forest Products, Inc. (NASDAQ:UFPI) and reflect on its potential as an investment. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Universal Forest Products:

0.16 = US$240m ÷ (US$1.9b - US$385m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, Universal Forest Products has an ROCE of 16%.

Check out our latest analysis for Universal Forest Products

Does Universal Forest Products Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In our analysis, Universal Forest Products's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 13% average in the Building industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of where Universal Forest Products sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Universal Forest Products's past growth compares to other companies.

NasdaqGS:UFPI Past Revenue and Net Income, November 14th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Universal Forest Products.

How Universal Forest Products's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Universal Forest Products has total liabilities of US$385m and total assets of US$1.9b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 20% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

Our Take On Universal Forest Products's ROCE

With that in mind, Universal Forest Products's ROCE appears pretty good. Universal Forest Products 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.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.