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Why AeroVironment, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AVAV) Return On Capital Employed Looks Uninspiring

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll evaluate AeroVironment, Inc. (NASDAQ:AVAV) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

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

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. 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?

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 AeroVironment:

0.082 = US$38m ÷ (US$509m - US$45m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to April 2019.)

Therefore, AeroVironment has an ROCE of 8.2%.

See our latest analysis for AeroVironment

Does AeroVironment Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, AeroVironment's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 12% average reported by the Aerospace & Defense industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, AeroVironment's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

We can see that , AeroVironment currently has an ROCE of 8.2% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 5.7%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can see in the image below how AeroVironment's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NasdaqGS:AVAV Past Revenue and Net Income, July 11th 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for AeroVironment.

AeroVironment's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 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.

AeroVironment has total assets of US$509m and current liabilities of US$45m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 8.8% of its total assets. AeroVironment reports few current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its unremarkable ROCE.

The Bottom Line On AeroVironment's ROCE

AeroVironment looks like an ok business, but on this analysis it is not at the top of our buy list. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than AeroVironment. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.