How Do Tennant Company’s (NYSE:TNC) Returns On Capital Compare To Peers?

Today we are going to look at Tennant Company (NYSE:TNC) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. In the end, ROCE is a valuable metric that has its flaws. Renowned investment researcher Michael Mauboussin has suggested that a high ROCE can indicate that ‘one dollar invested in the company generates value of more than one dollar’.

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 Tennant:

0.09 = US$55m ÷ (US$971m – US$239m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, Tennant has an ROCE of 9.0%.

See our latest analysis for Tennant

Is Tennant’s ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, Tennant’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 12% average reported by the Machinery industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Tennant’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

As we can see, Tennant currently has an ROCE of 9.0%, less than the 24% it reported 3 years ago. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently.

NYSE:TNC Last Perf December 16th 18
NYSE:TNC Last Perf December 16th 18

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. 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 Tennant.

Tennant’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 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Tennant has total assets of US$971m and current liabilities of US$239m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 25% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From Tennant’s ROCE

If Tennant continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. While the ROCE is useful information, it is not always predictive. We need to do more work before making a decision. For example, I often check if insiders have been buying shares .

Of course Tennant may not be the best stock to buy. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have high ROE and low debt.

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.