Why We’re Not Impressed By American Shared Hospital Services’s (NYSEMKT:AMS) 6.6% ROCE

Today we’ll look at American Shared Hospital Services (NYSEMKT:AMS) and reflect on its potential as an investment. To be precise, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from 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’.

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 American Shared Hospital Services:

0.066 = US$3.2m ÷ (US$57m – US$8.8m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, American Shared Hospital Services has an ROCE of 6.6%.

View our latest analysis for American Shared Hospital Services

Is American Shared Hospital Services’s ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, American Shared Hospital Services’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 12% average reported by the Healthcare industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Separate from how American Shared Hospital Services 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.

AMEX:AMS Past Revenue and Net Income, August 2nd 2019
AMEX:AMS Past Revenue and Net Income, August 2nd 2019

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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. You can check if American Shared Hospital Services has cyclical profits by looking at this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

How American Shared Hospital Services’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

American Shared Hospital Services has total assets of US$57m and current liabilities of US$8.8m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 15% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From American Shared Hospital Services’s ROCE

That said, American Shared Hospital Services’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. 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).

I will like American Shared Hospital Services 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.