How Do Harley-Davidson, Inc.’s (NYSE:HOG) Returns On Capital Compare To Peers?

Today we’ll evaluate Harley-Davidson, Inc. (NYSE:HOG) 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, 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.

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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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’.

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 Harley-Davidson:

0.13 = US$891m ÷ (US$11b – US$3.8b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, Harley-Davidson has an ROCE of 13%.

See our latest analysis for Harley-Davidson

Want to help shape the future of investing tools and platforms? Take the survey and be part of one of the most advanced studies of stock market investors to date.

Is Harley-Davidson’s ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. It appears that Harley-Davidson’s ROCE is fairly close to the Auto industry average of 17%. Independently of how Harley-Davidson compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

NYSE:HOG Last Perf January 18th 19
NYSE:HOG Last Perf January 18th 19

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Harley-Davidson.

Harley-Davidson’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Harley-Davidson has total assets of US$11b and current liabilities of US$3.8b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 36% of its total assets. Harley-Davidson has a middling amount of current liabilities, increasing its ROCE somewhat.

Our Take On Harley-Davidson’s ROCE

Harley-Davidson’s ROCE does look good, but the level of current liabilities also contribute to that. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.