ORBIS AG’s (ETR:OBS) Investment Returns Are Lagging Its Industry

Today we are going to look at ORBIS AG (ETR:OBS) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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 ORBIS:

0.10 = €2.4m ÷ (€38m – €13m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

Therefore, ORBIS has an ROCE of 10%.

View our latest analysis for ORBIS

Is ORBIS’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. It appears that ORBIS’s ROCE is fairly close to the IT industry average of 11%. Regardless of where ORBIS sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

As we can see, ORBIS currently has an ROCE of 10% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 7.6%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

XTRA:OBS Last Perf January 9th 19
XTRA:OBS Last Perf January 9th 19

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for ORBIS.

Do ORBIS’s Current Liabilities Skew 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

ORBIS has total liabilities of €13m and total assets of €38m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 34% of its total assets. ORBIS has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost the ROCE.

The Bottom Line On ORBIS’s ROCE

While its ROCE looks good, it’s worth remembering that the current liabilities are making the business look better. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than ORBIS. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.