Why Christie Group plc’s (LON:CTG) Return On Capital Employed Is Impressive

Today we’ll evaluate Christie Group plc (LON:CTG) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. In particular, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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 Christie Group:

0.40 = UK£3.3m ÷ (UK£31m – UK£21m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

So, Christie Group has an ROCE of 40%.

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Is Christie Group’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, we find that Christie Group’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 22% average in the Professional Services industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Setting aside the comparison to its industry for a moment, Christie Group’s ROCE in absolute terms currently looks quite high.

AIM:CTG Last Perf January 22nd 19
AIM:CTG Last Perf January 22nd 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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Christie Group’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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Christie Group has total assets of UK£31m and current liabilities of UK£21m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 66% of its total assets. While a high level of current liabilities boosts its ROCE, Christie Group’s returns are still very good.

What We Can Learn From Christie Group’s ROCE

So we would be interested in doing more research here — there may be an opportunity! But note: Christie Group 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).

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.