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Why We Like Intertek Group plc’s (LON:ITRK) 26% Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Intertek Group plc (LON:ITRK) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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?

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 Intertek Group:

0.26 = UK£505m ÷ (UK£2.8b - UK£900m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

So, Intertek Group has an ROCE of 26%.

View our latest analysis for Intertek Group

Is Intertek Group's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Intertek Group's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 15% average in the Professional Services industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Putting aside its position relative to its industry for now, in absolute terms, Intertek Group's ROCE is currently very good.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Intertek Group's past growth compares to other companies.

LSE:ITRK Past Revenue and Net Income March 27th 2020

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. 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 Intertek Group'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 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Intertek Group has total assets of UK£2.8b and current liabilities of UK£900m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 32% of its total assets. Intertek Group's ROCE is boosted somewhat by its middling amount of current liabilities.

What We Can Learn From Intertek Group's ROCE

Still, it has a high ROCE, and may be an interesting prospect for further research. Intertek Group 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.

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

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.