Unique Fabricating, Inc. (NYSEMKT:UFAB) Might Not Be A Great Investment

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Today we’ll look at Unique Fabricating, Inc. (NYSEMKT:UFAB) and reflect on its potential as an investment. In particular, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

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.’

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Unique Fabricating:

0.073 = US$7.5m ÷ (US$121m – US$19m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Unique Fabricating has an ROCE of 7.3%.

Check out our latest analysis for Unique Fabricating

Is Unique Fabricating’s ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, Unique Fabricating’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 16% average reported by the Auto Components industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Unique Fabricating’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Unique Fabricating’s current ROCE of 7.3% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 14%, 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

AMEX:UFAB Past Revenue and Net Income, July 3rd 2019
AMEX:UFAB Past Revenue and Net Income, July 3rd 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Unique Fabricating.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Unique Fabricating’s 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Unique Fabricating has total assets of US$121m and current liabilities of US$19m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 15% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

The Bottom Line On Unique Fabricating’s ROCE

That said, Unique Fabricating’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Unique Fabricating. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.