Has Ducommun Incorporated (NYSE:DCO) Been Employing Capital Shrewdly?

Today we’ll evaluate Ducommun Incorporated (NYSE:DCO) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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. 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 Ducommun:

0.091 = US$59m ÷ (US$790m – US$145m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

So, Ducommun has an ROCE of 9.1%.

Check out our latest analysis for Ducommun

Does Ducommun Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Ducommun’s ROCE is around the 11% average reported by the Aerospace & Defense industry. Separate from how Ducommun stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Our data shows that Ducommun currently has an ROCE of 9.1%, compared to its ROCE of 6.9% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can see in the image below how Ducommun’s ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:DCO Past Revenue and Net Income April 8th 2020
NYSE:DCO Past Revenue and Net Income April 8th 2020

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. 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 Ducommun.

Do Ducommun’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Ducommun has total assets of US$790m and current liabilities of US$145m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 18% 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 Ducommun’s ROCE

That said, Ducommun’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. You might be able to find a better investment than Ducommun. 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).

Ducommun is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.

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.