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Varian Medical Systems, Inc. (NYSE:VAR) Is Employing Capital Very Effectively

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Varian Medical Systems, Inc. (NYSE:VAR) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

The formula for calculating the return on capital employed is:

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

Or for Varian Medical Systems:

0.23 = US$501m ÷ (US$4.0b - US$1.8b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Varian Medical Systems has an ROCE of 23%.

See our latest analysis for Varian Medical Systems

Is Varian Medical Systems's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In our analysis, Varian Medical Systems's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 10% average in the Medical Equipment industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Varian Medical Systems's ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Varian Medical Systems's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:VAR Past Revenue and Net Income, August 22nd 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Varian Medical Systems.

Do Varian Medical Systems's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Varian Medical Systems has total assets of US$4.0b and current liabilities of US$1.8b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 46% of its total assets. Varian Medical Systems has a medium level of current liabilities, boosting its ROCE somewhat.

Our Take On Varian Medical Systems's ROCE

Even so, it has a great ROCE, and could be an attractive prospect for further research. Varian Medical Systems looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

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.