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Is Wabash National Corporation (NYSE:WNC) Better Than Average At Deploying Capital?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Wabash National Corporation (NYSE:WNC) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

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. 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 Wabash National:

0.13 = US$135m ÷ (US$1.4b - US$361m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Wabash National has an ROCE of 13%.

Check out our latest analysis for Wabash National

Is Wabash National's ROCE Good?

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

We can see that , Wabash National currently has an ROCE of 13%, less than the 27% it reported 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. The image below shows how Wabash National's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:WNC Past Revenue and Net Income, July 25th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Wabash National.

Wabash National's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Wabash National has total liabilities of US$361m and total assets of US$1.4b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 26% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

Our Take On Wabash National's ROCE

Overall, Wabash National has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. Wabash National 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 are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.