Is There More To ABM Industries Incorporated (NYSE:ABM) Than Its 8.0% Returns On Capital?

Today we are going to look at ABM Industries Incorporated (NYSE:ABM) 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. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 ABM Industries:

0.08 = US$222m ÷ (US$3.7b – US$902m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to October 2019.)

Therefore, ABM Industries has an ROCE of 8.0%.

Check out our latest analysis for ABM Industries

Does ABM Industries Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that ABM Industries’s ROCE is fairly close to the Commercial Services industry average of 9.4%. Separate from how ABM Industries 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.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how ABM Industries’s past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:ABM Past Revenue and Net Income, January 22nd 2020
NYSE:ABM Past Revenue and Net Income, January 22nd 2020

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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 ABM Industries.

Do ABM Industries’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

ABM Industries has total liabilities of US$902m and total assets of US$3.7b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 24% 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 ABM Industries’s ROCE

With that in mind, we’re not overly impressed with ABM Industries’s ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E 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.