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Why We’re Not Impressed By Quanex Building Products Corporation’s (NYSE:NX) 5.9% ROCE

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Quanex Building Products Corporation (NYSE:NX) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, 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.

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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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 Quanex Building Products:

0.059 = US$38m ÷ (US$742m – US$102m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to October 2018.)

So, Quanex Building Products has an ROCE of 5.9%.

Check out our latest analysis for Quanex Building Products

Does Quanex Building Products Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, Quanex Building Products’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 15% average reported by the Building industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Separate from how Quanex Building Products 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.

NYSE:NX Past Revenue and Net Income, March 1st 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Quanex Building Products.

Quanex Building Products’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Quanex Building Products has total liabilities of US$102m and total assets of US$742m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 14% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Quanex Building Products’s ROCE

With that in mind, we’re not overly impressed with Quanex Building Products’s ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. You might be able to find a better buy than Quanex Building Products. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

I will like Quanex Building Products better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.