Quest Holdings S.A. (ATH:QUEST) Might Not Be A Great Investment

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Today we are going to look at Quest Holdings S.A. (ATH:QUEST) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its 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 Quest Holdings:

0.089 = €18m ÷ (€347m – €144m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Quest Holdings has an ROCE of 8.9%.

View our latest analysis for Quest Holdings

Is Quest Holdings’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see Quest Holdings’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Electronic industry average of 12%. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Aside from the industry comparison, Quest Holdings’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

In our analysis, Quest Holdings’s ROCE appears to be 8.9%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 4.1%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

ATSE:QUEST Past Revenue and Net Income, July 4th 2019
ATSE:QUEST Past Revenue and Net Income, July 4th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. You can check if Quest Holdings has cyclical profits by looking at this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Quest Holdings’s ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Quest Holdings has total assets of €347m and current liabilities of €144m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 42% of its total assets. Quest Holdings’s middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

Our Take On Quest Holdings’s ROCE

Unfortunately, its ROCE is still uninspiring, and there are potentially more attractive prospects out there. You might be able to find a better investment than Quest Holdings. 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).

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

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.