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Here’s why Cubic Corporation’s (NYSE:CUB) Returns On Capital Matters So Much

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Cubic Corporation (NYSE:CUB) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, 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.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

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. 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 Cubic:

0.032 = US$41m ÷ (US$1.8b - US$552m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Cubic has an ROCE of 3.2%.

See our latest analysis for Cubic

Is Cubic's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Cubic's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 10% average in 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. Regardless of how Cubic stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is quite low (especially compared to a bank account). Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

Cubic's current ROCE of 3.2% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 4.9% ROCE. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds. The image below shows how Cubic's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:CUB Past Revenue and Net Income, September 5th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Cubic'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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Cubic has total assets of US$1.8b and current liabilities of US$552m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 30% of its total assets. With a medium level of current liabilities boosting the ROCE a little, Cubic's low ROCE is unappealing.

The Bottom Line On Cubic's ROCE

There are likely better investments out there. You might be able to find a better investment than Cubic. 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).

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.