Is Galliford Try plc’s (LON:GFRD) Return On Capital Employed Any Good?

Today we’ll evaluate Galliford Try plc (LON:GFRD) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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.’

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Galliford Try:

0.17 = UK£175m ÷ (UK£3.3b – UK£2.3b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Galliford Try has an ROCE of 17%.

Check out our latest analysis for Galliford Try

Does Galliford Try Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Galliford Try’s ROCE is around the 17% average reported by the Construction industry. Separate from Galliford Try’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

Our data shows that Galliford Try currently has an ROCE of 17%, compared to its ROCE of 13% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

LSE:GFRD Past Revenue and Net Income, March 15th 2019
LSE:GFRD Past Revenue and Net Income, March 15th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Galliford Try.

Galliford Try’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. 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.

Galliford Try has total liabilities of UK£2.3b and total assets of UK£3.3b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 69% of its total assets. Galliford Try’s current liabilities are fairly high, which increases its ROCE significantly.

What We Can Learn From Galliford Try’s ROCE

The ROCE would not look as appealing if the company had fewer current liabilities. You might be able to find a better buy than Galliford Try. 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 like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.