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Why You Should Like James Fisher and Sons plc’s (LON:FSJ) ROCE

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at James Fisher and Sons plc (LON:FSJ) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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 James Fisher and Sons:

0.13 = UK£60m ÷ (UK£606m - UK£154m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, James Fisher and Sons has an ROCE of 13%.

Check out our latest analysis for James Fisher and Sons

Does James Fisher and Sons Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. James Fisher and Sons's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 8.0% average in the Infrastructure industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Separate from James Fisher and Sons's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

You can see in the image below how James Fisher and Sons's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

LSE:FSJ Past Revenue and Net Income, July 27th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for James Fisher and Sons.

Do James Fisher and Sons'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. 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.

James Fisher and Sons has total assets of UK£606m and current liabilities of UK£154m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 25% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

Our Take On James Fisher and Sons's ROCE

Overall, James Fisher and Sons has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. James Fisher and Sons 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.

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.