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Here’s why ATN International, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:ATNI) Returns On Capital Matters So Much

Simply Wall St

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Today we are going to look at ATN International, Inc. (NASDAQ:ATNI) 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 of all, we'll work out how to 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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.'

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 ATN International:

0.036 = US$36m ÷ (US$1.2b - US$141m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, ATN International has an ROCE of 3.6%.

Check out our latest analysis for ATN International

Does ATN International Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In this analysis, ATN International's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 6.5% average reported by the Telecom industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Independently of how ATN International compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.

ATN International's current ROCE of 3.6% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 9.6% ROCE. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds. You can see in the image below how ATN International's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NasdaqGS:ATNI Past Revenue and Net Income, July 9th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. 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 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 ATN International.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect ATN International's 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

ATN International has total liabilities of US$141m and total assets of US$1.2b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 12% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which will have a limited impact on the ROCE.

The Bottom Line On ATN International's ROCE

While that is good to see, ATN International has a low ROCE and does not look attractive in this analysis. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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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.