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Why Gunnebo AB (publ)’s (STO:GUNN) Return On Capital Employed Might Be A Concern

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Gunnebo AB (publ) (STO:GUNN) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

What is 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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?

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 Gunnebo:

0.062 = kr250m ÷ (kr6.0b - kr2.0b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, Gunnebo has an ROCE of 6.2%.

Check out our latest analysis for Gunnebo

Is Gunnebo's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In this analysis, Gunnebo's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 8.3% average reported by the Commercial Services industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how Gunnebo stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

We can see that, Gunnebo currently has an ROCE of 6.2%, less than the 12% it reported 3 years ago. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently. The image below shows how Gunnebo's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

OM:GUNN Past Revenue and Net Income, January 1st 2020

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Gunnebo.

Do Gunnebo's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Gunnebo has total assets of kr6.0b and current liabilities of kr2.0b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 33% of its total assets. Gunnebo has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost its ROCE somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Gunnebo's ROCE

Despite this, its ROCE is still mediocre, and you may find more appealing investments elsewhere. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Gunnebo. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. You probably do not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.