What We Think Of Acrow Formwork and Construction Services Limited’s (ASX:ACF) Investment Potential

Today we are going to look at Acrow Formwork and Construction Services Limited (ASX:ACF) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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 Acrow Formwork and Construction Services:

0.097 = AU$5.5m ÷ (AU$72m – AU$16m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Acrow Formwork and Construction Services has an ROCE of 9.7%.

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Does Acrow Formwork and Construction Services Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that Acrow Formwork and Construction Services’s ROCE is fairly close to the Trade Distributors industry average of 9.8%. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Acrow Formwork and Construction Services’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.

ASX:ACF Past Revenue and Net Income, May 17th 2019
ASX:ACF Past Revenue and Net Income, May 17th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Acrow Formwork and Construction Services’s ROCE?

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Acrow Formwork and Construction Services has total assets of AU$72m and current liabilities of AU$16m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 22% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Acrow Formwork and Construction Services’s ROCE

That said, Acrow Formwork and Construction Services’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. You might be able to find a better investment than Acrow Formwork and Construction Services. 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 Acrow Formwork and Construction 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.