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Why We’re Not Keen On Kimball Electronics, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:KE) 8.6% Return On Capital

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Kimball Electronics, Inc. (NASDAQ:KE) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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.

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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Kimball Electronics:

0.086 = US$42m ÷ (US$764m - US$275m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Kimball Electronics has an ROCE of 8.6%.

View our latest analysis for Kimball Electronics

Is Kimball Electronics's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Kimball Electronics's ROCE is meaningfully below the Electronic 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 Kimball Electronics stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

The image below shows how Kimball Electronics's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGS:KE Past Revenue and Net Income, September 18th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. If Kimball Electronics is cyclical, it could make sense to check out this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

Kimball Electronics's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

Kimball Electronics has total liabilities of US$275m and total assets of US$764m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 36% of its total assets. Kimball Electronics has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost its ROCE somewhat.

The Bottom Line On Kimball Electronics's ROCE

Unfortunately, its ROCE is still uninspiring, and there are potentially more attractive prospects out there. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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.