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Should You Worry About CyberOptics Corporation’s (NASDAQ:CYBE) ROCE?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at CyberOptics Corporation (NASDAQ:CYBE) 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.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding 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. 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?

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 CyberOptics:

0.064 = US$4.0m ÷ (US$73m - US$12m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, CyberOptics has an ROCE of 6.4%.

Check out our latest analysis for CyberOptics

Does CyberOptics Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see CyberOptics's ROCE is meaningfully below the Semiconductor industry average of 10%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, CyberOptics'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.

CyberOptics's current ROCE of 6.4% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 8.8% ROCE. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. The image below shows how CyberOptics's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGM:CYBE Past Revenue and Net Income, October 15th 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for CyberOptics.

CyberOptics'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 ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

CyberOptics has total liabilities of US$12m and total assets of US$73m. 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.

The Bottom Line On CyberOptics's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with CyberOptics's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. You might be able to find a better investment than CyberOptics. 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 CyberOptics 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.