What Can We Make Of Vectrus, Inc.’s (NYSE:VEC) High Return On Capital?

Today we’ll evaluate Vectrus, Inc. (NYSE:VEC) 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.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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?

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 Vectrus:

0.15 = US$51m ÷ (US$572m – US$225m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Vectrus has an ROCE of 15%.

See our latest analysis for Vectrus

Does Vectrus Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In our analysis, Vectrus’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 12% average in the Aerospace & Defense industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Separate from Vectrus’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

NYSE:VEC Past Revenue and Net Income, April 17th 2019
NYSE:VEC Past Revenue and Net Income, April 17th 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. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Vectrus.

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

Vectrus has total assets of US$572m and current liabilities of US$225m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 39% of its total assets. With this level of current liabilities, Vectrus’s ROCE is boosted somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Vectrus’s ROCE

While its ROCE looks good, it’s worth remembering that the current liabilities are making the business look better. Vectrus looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.