Evaluating Autoliv, Inc.’s (NYSE:ALV) Investments In Its Business

Today we’ll look at Autoliv, Inc. (NYSE:ALV) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the 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.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

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. 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?

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 Autoliv:

0.18 = US$773m ÷ (US$6.8b – US$2.4b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Autoliv has an ROCE of 18%.

View our latest analysis for Autoliv

Is Autoliv’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Autoliv’s ROCE appears to be around the 15% average of the Auto Components industry. Independently of how Autoliv compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

NYSE:ALV Past Revenue and Net Income, August 10th 2019
NYSE:ALV Past Revenue and Net Income, August 10th 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 only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Autoliv.

Do Autoliv’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.

Autoliv has total assets of US$6.8b and current liabilities of US$2.4b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 36% of its total assets. Autoliv has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost the ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Autoliv’s ROCE

With a decent ROCE, the company could be interesting, but remember that the level of current liabilities make the ROCE look better. There might be better investments than Autoliv out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

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.