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Should You Worry About Gates Industrial Corporation plc’s (NYSE:GTES) ROCE?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Gates Industrial Corporation plc (NYSE:GTES) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

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.

What is 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.

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 Gates Industrial:

0.063 = US$420m ÷ (US$7.3b - US$583m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Gates Industrial has an ROCE of 6.3%.

Check out our latest analysis for Gates Industrial

Is Gates Industrial's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Gates Industrial's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 11% average in the Machinery industry. 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, Gates Industrial'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.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Gates Industrial's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:GTES Past Revenue and Net Income, January 9th 2020

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 Gates Industrial.

Do Gates Industrial's Current Liabilities Skew 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Gates Industrial has total assets of US$7.3b and current liabilities of US$583m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 8.0% of its total assets. Gates Industrial has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

Our Take On Gates Industrial's ROCE

If performance improves, then Gates Industrial may be an OK investment, especially at the right valuation. 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).

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.