How Do Matthews International Corporation’s (NASDAQ:MATW) Returns Compare To Its Industry?

Today we are going to look at Matthews International Corporation (NASDAQ:MATW) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

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

ROCE is a measure of a company’s yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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 Matthews International:

0.065 = US$133m ÷ (US$2.4b – US$301m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Matthews International has an ROCE of 6.5%.

View our latest analysis for Matthews International

Is Matthews International’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see Matthews International’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Commercial Services industry average of 10%. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how Matthews International stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

NasdaqGS:MATW Past Revenue and Net Income, April 18th 2019
NasdaqGS:MATW Past Revenue and Net Income, April 18th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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 Matthews International.

How Matthews International’s Current Liabilities Impact 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. 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.

Matthews International has total assets of US$2.4b and current liabilities of US$301m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 13% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Matthews International’s ROCE

That said, Matthews International’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. You might be able to find a better investment than Matthews International. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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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.