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Why We’re Not Impressed By Elma Electronic AG’s (VTX:ELMN) 10% ROCE

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Elma Electronic AG (VTX:ELMN) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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.

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 Elma Electronic:

0.10 = CHF6.5m ÷ (CHF93m - CHF29m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Elma Electronic has an ROCE of 10%.

View our latest analysis for Elma Electronic

Is Elma Electronic's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Elma Electronic's ROCE is meaningfully below the Electronic industry average of 13%. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Elma Electronic's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

In our analysis, Elma Electronic's ROCE appears to be 10%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 3.1%. This makes us think the business might be improving. You can see in the image below how Elma Electronic's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

SWX:ELMN Past Revenue and Net Income, October 13th 2019

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 misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. How cyclical is Elma Electronic? You can see for yourself by looking at this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

Do Elma Electronic's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

Elma Electronic has total liabilities of CHF29m and total assets of CHF93m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 32% of its total assets. Elma Electronic has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost its ROCE somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Elma Electronic'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 Elma Electronic. 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.