Here’s What H&E Equipment Services, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:HEES) ROCE Can Tell Us

Today we are going to look at H&E Equipment Services, Inc. (NASDAQ:HEES) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the 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.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed 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. 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?

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 H&E Equipment Services:

0.10 = US$160m ÷ (US$1.7b – US$173m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, H&E Equipment Services has an ROCE of 10%.

See our latest analysis for H&E Equipment Services

Does H&E Equipment Services Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In our analysis, H&E Equipment Services’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 8.1% average in the Trade Distributors industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Aside from the industry comparison, H&E Equipment Services’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

NasdaqGS:HEES Past Revenue and Net Income, April 12th 2019
NasdaqGS:HEES Past Revenue and Net Income, April 12th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

H&E Equipment Services’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

H&E Equipment Services has total assets of US$1.7b and current liabilities of US$173m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 10.0% of its total assets. H&E Equipment Services has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

What We Can Learn From H&E Equipment Services’s ROCE

If performance improves, then H&E Equipment Services may be an OK investment, especially at the right valuation. You might be able to find a better investment than H&E Equipment Services. 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 H&E Equipment Services better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.