Here’s What Navistar International Corporation’s (NYSE:NAV) ROCE Can Tell Us

Today we’ll look at Navistar International Corporation (NYSE:NAV) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed 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 Navistar International:

0.20 = US$692m ÷ (US$7.0b – US$3.7b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to January 2019.)

Therefore, Navistar International has an ROCE of 20%.

See our latest analysis for Navistar International

Does Navistar International Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In our analysis, Navistar International’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 11% average in the Machinery industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Separate from Navistar International’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

Our data shows that Navistar International currently has an ROCE of 20%, compared to its ROCE of 10% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NYSE:NAV Past Revenue and Net Income, April 5th 2019
NYSE:NAV Past Revenue and Net Income, April 5th 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 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.

How Navistar International’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Navistar International has total liabilities of US$3.7b and total assets of US$7.0b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 52% of its total assets. Navistar International has a relatively high level of current liabilities, boosting its ROCE meaningfully.

The Bottom Line On Navistar International’s ROCE

The ROCE would not look as appealing if the company had fewer current liabilities. 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.

I will like Navistar International 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.