Bobst Group SA (VTX:BOBNN) Might Not Be A Great Investment

Today we are going to look at Bobst Group SA (VTX:BOBNN) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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 of all, we’ll work out how to 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 is a measure of a company’s yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Bobst Group:

0.069 = CHF65m ÷ (CHF1.6b – CHF610m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Bobst Group has an ROCE of 6.9%.

Check out our latest analysis for Bobst Group

Does Bobst Group Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see Bobst Group’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Machinery industry average of 14%. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how Bobst Group stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

Bobst Group’s current ROCE of 6.9% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 11%, 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

SWX:BOBNN Past Revenue and Net Income, September 3rd 2019
SWX:BOBNN Past Revenue and Net Income, September 3rd 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. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do Bobst Group’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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Bobst Group has total assets of CHF1.6b and current liabilities of CHF610m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 39% of its total assets. Bobst Group’s middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

What We Can Learn From Bobst Group’s ROCE

With this level of liabilities and a mediocre ROCE, there are potentially better investments out there. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

I will like Bobst Group 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.