Shareholders Should Look Hard At Heidelberger Druckmaschinen Aktiengesellschaft’s (FRA:HDD) 5.2% Return On Capital

Today we’ll evaluate Heidelberger Druckmaschinen Aktiengesellschaft (FRA:HDD) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

First up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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. 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’.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Heidelberger Druckmaschinen:

0.052 = €79m ÷ (€2.4b – €820m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen has an ROCE of 5.2%.

Check out our latest analysis for Heidelberger Druckmaschinen

Is Heidelberger Druckmaschinen’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see Heidelberger Druckmaschinen’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Machinery industry average of 9.6%. 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, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

Our data shows that Heidelberger Druckmaschinen currently has an ROCE of 5.2%, compared to its ROCE of 4.1% 3 years ago. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly.

DB:HDD Past Revenue and Net Income, August 26th 2019
DB:HDD Past Revenue and Net Income, August 26th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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 Heidelberger Druckmaschinen’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.

Heidelberger Druckmaschinen has total liabilities of €820m and total assets of €2.4b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 35% of its total assets. Heidelberger Druckmaschinen has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost its ROCE somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Heidelberger Druckmaschinen’s ROCE

Unfortunately, its ROCE is still uninspiring, and there are potentially more attractive prospects out there. 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).

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.