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Why Civmec Limited’s (SGX:P9D) Return On Capital Employed Looks Uninspiring

Today we are going to look at Civmec Limited (SGX:P9D) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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, 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 is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Civmec:

0.025 = AU\$8.0m ÷ (AU\$471m - AU\$155m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, Civmec has an ROCE of 2.5%.

See our latest analysis for Civmec

Does Civmec Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, Civmec's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 3.6% average reported by the Construction industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Regardless of how Civmec stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is quite low (especially compared to a bank account). There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.

Civmec's current ROCE of 2.5% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 8.4%, 3 years ago. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Civmec's past growth compares to other companies.

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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. If Civmec is cyclical, it could make sense to check out this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Civmec'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 ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Civmec has total liabilities of AU\$155m and total assets of AU\$471m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 33% of its total assets. In light of sufficient current liabilities to noticeably boost the ROCE, Civmec's ROCE is concerning.

What We Can Learn From Civmec's ROCE

So researching other companies may be a better use of your time. 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).

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.

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. Thank you for reading.