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Why Lindsay Corporation’s (NYSE:LNN) Return On Capital Employed Looks Uninspiring

Simply Wall St

Today we’ll evaluate Lindsay Corporation (NYSE:LNN) 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. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the 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’.

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 Lindsay:

0.082 = US$34m ÷ (US$503m – US$83m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to November 2018.)

So, Lindsay has an ROCE of 8.2%.

Check out our latest analysis for Lindsay

Is Lindsay’s ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Lindsay’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Machinery industry average of 12%. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how Lindsay stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Lindsay’s current ROCE of 8.2% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 12% ROCE. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

NYSE:LNN Past Revenue and Net Income, March 13th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Lindsay.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Lindsay’s 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Lindsay has total liabilities of US$83m and total assets of US$503m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 17% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From Lindsay’s ROCE

That said, Lindsay’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Lindsay. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.