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Is OraSure Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:OSUR) Better Than Average At Deploying Capital?

Today we are going to look at OraSure Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ:OSUR) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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’.

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 OraSure Technologies:

0.10 = US\$31m ÷ (US\$327m – US\$30m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, OraSure Technologies has an ROCE of 10%.

Does OraSure Technologies Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see OraSure Technologies’s ROCE is around the 10% average reported by the Medical Equipment industry. Separate from how OraSure Technologies stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

In our analysis, OraSure Technologies’s ROCE appears to be 10%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 7.3%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do OraSure Technologies’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. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

OraSure Technologies has total liabilities of US\$30m and total assets of US\$327m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 9.1% of its total assets. OraSure Technologies has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

What We Can Learn From OraSure Technologies’s ROCE

Based on this information, OraSure Technologies appears to be a mediocre business. You might be able to find a better investment than OraSure Technologies. 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 OraSure Technologies 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.