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Why We’re Not Keen On Comtech Telecommunications Corp.’s (NASDAQ:CMTL) 6.2% Return On Capital

Simply Wall St

Today we’ll look at Comtech Telecommunications Corp. (NASDAQ:CMTL) 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.

First of all, we’ll work out how to 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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 Comtech Telecommunications:

0.062 = US$35m ÷ (US$867m – US$143m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to October 2018.)

Therefore, Comtech Telecommunications has an ROCE of 6.2%.

See our latest analysis for Comtech Telecommunications

Does Comtech Telecommunications Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Comtech Telecommunications’s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 7.9% average in the Communications industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Comtech Telecommunications’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

NasdaqGS:CMTL Past Revenue and Net Income, February 27th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. 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 Comtech Telecommunications.

How Comtech Telecommunications’s Current Liabilities Impact 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Comtech Telecommunications has total assets of US$867m and current liabilities of US$143m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 16% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Comtech Telecommunications’s ROCE

If Comtech Telecommunications continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Comtech Telecommunications. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.