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

Today we’ll look at Knoll, Inc. (NYSE:KNL) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

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

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Overall, it 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’.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Knoll:

0.14 = US$130m ÷ (US$1.2b – US$273m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Knoll has an ROCE of 14%.

View our latest analysis for Knoll

Is Knoll’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Knoll’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 10% average in the Commercial Services industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Independently of how Knoll compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

NYSE:KNL Past Revenue and Net Income, April 17th 2019
NYSE:KNL Past Revenue and Net Income, April 17th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Knoll.

Do Knoll’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Knoll has total assets of US$1.2b and current liabilities of US$273m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 22% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From Knoll’s ROCE

Overall, Knoll has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. Knoll shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

I will like Knoll 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.