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Why Benchmark Electronics, Inc.’s (NYSE:BHE) Return On Capital Employed Looks Uninspiring

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Benchmark Electronics, Inc. (NYSE:BHE) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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 Benchmark Electronics:

0.05 = US$67m ÷ (US$1.8b - US$488m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Benchmark Electronics has an ROCE of 5.0%.

See our latest analysis for Benchmark Electronics

Is Benchmark Electronics's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see Benchmark Electronics's ROCE is meaningfully below the Electronic industry average of 12%. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Putting aside Benchmark Electronics's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor - considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

The image below shows how Benchmark Electronics's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:BHE Past Revenue and Net Income, July 28th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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 Benchmark Electronics.

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

Benchmark Electronics has total liabilities of US$488m and total assets of US$1.8b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 27% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which will have a limited impact on the ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Benchmark Electronics's ROCE

While that is good to see, Benchmark Electronics has a low ROCE and does not look attractive in this analysis. 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).

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.