Should You Worry About Aircastle Limited’s (NYSE:AYR) ROCE?

Today we’ll evaluate Aircastle Limited (NYSE:AYR) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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.

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 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. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Aircastle:

0.047 = US$415m ÷ (US$7.7b – US$100m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, Aircastle has an ROCE of 4.7%.

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Does Aircastle Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Aircastle’s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 7.9% average in the Trade Distributors industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Independently of how Aircastle compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

As we can see, Aircastle currently has an ROCE of 4.7%, less than the 7.4% it reported 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NYSE:AYR Last Perf January 31st 19
NYSE:AYR Last Perf January 31st 19

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Aircastle.

Do Aircastle’s Current Liabilities Skew 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. 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.

Aircastle has total assets of US$7.7b and current liabilities of US$100m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 1.3% of its total assets. With barely any current liabilities, there is minimal impact on Aircastle’s admittedly low ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Aircastle’s ROCE

Nevertheless, there are potentially more attractive companies to invest in. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Aircastle. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

I will like Aircastle better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.