Why Unique Fabricating, Inc.’s (NYSEMKT:UFAB) Use Of Investor Capital Doesn’t Look Great

Today we’ll evaluate Unique Fabricating, Inc. (NYSEMKT:UFAB) 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. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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.’

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Unique Fabricating:

0.092 = US$9.6m ÷ (US$123m – US$19m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Unique Fabricating has an ROCE of 9.2%.

Check out our latest analysis for Unique Fabricating

Is Unique Fabricating’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In this analysis, Unique Fabricating’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 15% average reported by the Auto Components industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Unique Fabricating’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

As we can see, Unique Fabricating currently has an ROCE of 9.2%, less than the 13% it reported 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

AMEX:UFAB Past Revenue and Net Income, April 3rd 2019
AMEX:UFAB Past Revenue and Net Income, April 3rd 2019

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 deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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 Unique Fabricating.

Unique Fabricating’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Unique Fabricating has total liabilities of US$19m and total assets of US$123m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 16% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Unique Fabricating’s ROCE

If Unique Fabricating continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. 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.

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.