Is Esprinet S.p.A. (BIT:PRT) Better Than Average At Deploying Capital?

Today we’ll look at Esprinet S.p.A. (BIT:PRT) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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?

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 Esprinet:

0.095 = €46m ÷ (€1.2b – €688m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Esprinet has an ROCE of 9.5%.

See our latest analysis for Esprinet

Is Esprinet’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see Esprinet’s ROCE is around the 11% average reported by the Electronic industry. Separate from Esprinet’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

The image below shows how Esprinet’s ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

BIT:PRT Past Revenue and Net Income, January 22nd 2020
BIT:PRT Past Revenue and Net Income, January 22nd 2020

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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 only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Esprinet.

Do Esprinet’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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Esprinet has total liabilities of €688m and total assets of €1.2b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 59% of its total assets. This is admittedly a high level of current liabilities, improving ROCE substantially.

What We Can Learn From Esprinet’s ROCE

This ROCE is pretty good, but remember that it would look less impressive with fewer current liabilities. There might be better investments than Esprinet out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.

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