Why SpeedCast International Limited’s (ASX:SDA) Use Of Investor Capital Doesn’t Look Great

Today we’ll look at SpeedCast International Limited (ASX:SDA) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is 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. 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’.

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 SpeedCast International:

0.072 = US$52m ÷ (US$988m – US$198m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

Therefore, SpeedCast International has an ROCE of 7.2%.

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Does SpeedCast International Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In this analysis, SpeedCast International’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 9.8% average reported by the Telecom industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Aside from the industry comparison, SpeedCast International’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

ASX:SDA Last Perf January 13th 19
ASX:SDA Last Perf January 13th 19

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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for SpeedCast International.

How SpeedCast International’s Current Liabilities Impact 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

SpeedCast International has total assets of US$988m and current liabilities of US$198m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 20% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From SpeedCast International’s ROCE

If SpeedCast International continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. But note: SpeedCast International may not be the best stock to buy. 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).

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.