Here’s why Huber+Suhner AG’s (VTX:HUBN) Returns On Capital Matters So Much

Today we are going to look at Huber+Suhner AG (VTX:HUBN) 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.

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

ROCE is a measure of a company’s yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since ‘No two businesses are exactly alike.’

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Huber+Suhner:

0.11 = CHF54m ÷ (CHF772m – CHF136m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

Therefore, Huber+Suhner has an ROCE of 11%.

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Is Huber+Suhner’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that Huber+Suhner’s ROCE is fairly close to the Electrical industry average of 12%. Separate from how Huber+Suhner 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.

As we can see, Huber+Suhner currently has an ROCE of 11% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 8.8%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

SWX:HUBN Last Perf January 18th 19
SWX:HUBN Last Perf January 18th 19

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. 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 Huber+Suhner.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Huber+Suhner’s 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.

Huber+Suhner has total assets of CHF772m and current liabilities of CHF136m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 18% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Huber+Suhner’s ROCE

If Huber+Suhner continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. You might be able to find a better buy than Huber+Suhner. 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).

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.