U.S. Markets closed

Here’s why Apogee Enterprises, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:APOG) Returns On Capital Matters So Much

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Apogee Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ:APOG) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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.'

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 Apogee Enterprises:

0.079 = US$67m ÷ (US$1.1b - US$228m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Apogee Enterprises has an ROCE of 7.9%.

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

Check out our latest analysis for Apogee Enterprises

Is Apogee Enterprises's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, Apogee Enterprises's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 13% average in the Building industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Apogee Enterprises's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Apogee Enterprises's current ROCE of 7.9% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 20% ROCE. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NasdaqGS:APOG Past Revenue and Net Income, May 20th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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 Apogee Enterprises.

How Apogee Enterprises's Current Liabilities Impact 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.

Apogee Enterprises has total liabilities of US$228m and total assets of US$1.1b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 21% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Apogee Enterprises's ROCE

That said, Apogee Enterprises's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. You might be able to find a better investment than Apogee Enterprises. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

I will like Apogee Enterprises 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.