Why Preformed Line Products Company’s (NASDAQ:PLPC) Return On Capital Employed Looks Uninspiring

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Today we’ll evaluate Preformed Line Products Company (NASDAQ:PLPC) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

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

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.’

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Preformed Line Products:

0.086 = US$27m ÷ (US$387m – US$71m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Preformed Line Products has an ROCE of 8.6%.

See our latest analysis for Preformed Line Products

Is Preformed Line Products’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Preformed Line Products’s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 11% average in the Electrical industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Aside from the industry comparison, Preformed Line Products’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, Preformed Line Products currently has an ROCE of 8.6% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 6.1%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NasdaqGS:PLPC Past Revenue and Net Income, June 21st 2019
NasdaqGS:PLPC Past Revenue and Net Income, June 21st 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. 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. You can check if Preformed Line Products has cyclical profits by looking at this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

How Preformed Line Products’s Current Liabilities Impact 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Preformed Line Products has total liabilities of US$71m and total assets of US$387m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 18% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Preformed Line Products’s ROCE

If Preformed Line Products continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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