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Why Exponent, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:EXPO) Return On Capital Employed Is Impressive

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Exponent, Inc. (NASDAQ:EXPO) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Exponent:

0.21 = US$88m ÷ (US$521m - US$93m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Exponent has an ROCE of 21%.

Check out our latest analysis for Exponent

Is Exponent's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Exponent's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 13% average in the Professional Services industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Separate from Exponent's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

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

NasdaqGS:EXPO Past Revenue and Net Income, August 6th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

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

Exponent has total assets of US$521m and current liabilities of US$93m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 18% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

The Bottom Line On Exponent's ROCE

With that in mind, Exponent's ROCE appears pretty good. Exponent shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

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

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.