Craneware plc (LON:CRW) Is Employing Capital Very Effectively

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Today we’ll look at Craneware plc (LON:CRW) and reflect on its potential as an investment. To be precise, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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 Craneware:

0.36 = US$19m ÷ (US$99m – US$47m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

Therefore, Craneware has an ROCE of 36%.

View our latest analysis for Craneware

Does Craneware Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Craneware’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 14% average in the Healthcare Services industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Putting aside its position relative to its industry for now, in absolute terms, Craneware’s ROCE is currently very good.

Our data shows that Craneware currently has an ROCE of 36%, compared to its ROCE of 26% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

AIM:CRW Last Perf February 7th 19
AIM:CRW Last Perf February 7th 19

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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.

Do Craneware’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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.

Craneware has total liabilities of US$47m and total assets of US$99m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 48% of its total assets. A medium level of current liabilities boosts Craneware’s ROCE somewhat.

Our Take On Craneware’s ROCE

Still, it has a high ROCE, and may be an interesting prospect for further research. You might be able to find a better buy than Craneware. 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).

I will like Craneware better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.