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Has Wajax Corporation (TSE:WJX) Been Employing Capital Shrewdly?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Wajax Corporation (TSE:WJX) 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. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since 'No two businesses are exactly alike.'

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Wajax:

0.099 = CA$68m ÷ (CA$997m - CA$306m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Wajax has an ROCE of 9.9%.

View our latest analysis for Wajax

Is Wajax's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Wajax's ROCE is around the 12% average reported by the Trade Distributors industry. Separate from how Wajax stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

Our data shows that Wajax currently has an ROCE of 9.9%, compared to its ROCE of 7.4% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. The image below shows how Wajax's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

TSX:WJX Past Revenue and Net Income, September 18th 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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Wajax.

Wajax's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Wajax has total liabilities of CA$306m and total assets of CA$997m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 31% of its total assets. Wajax's middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

Our Take On Wajax's ROCE

With this level of liabilities and a mediocre ROCE, there are potentially better investments out there. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

I will like Wajax better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.