Examining TrueBlue, Inc.’s (NYSE:TBI) Weak Return On Capital Employed

Today we are going to look at TrueBlue, Inc. (NYSE:TBI) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. 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 TrueBlue:

0.092 = US$81m ÷ (US$1.1b – US$213m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, TrueBlue has an ROCE of 9.2%.

See our latest analysis for TrueBlue

Is TrueBlue’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In this analysis, TrueBlue’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 12% average reported by the Professional Services industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, TrueBlue’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how TrueBlue’s past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:TBI Past Revenue and Net Income, September 19th 2019
NYSE:TBI Past Revenue and Net Income, September 19th 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. 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 TrueBlue.

TrueBlue’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

TrueBlue has total liabilities of US$213m and total assets of US$1.1b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 19% 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 TrueBlue’s ROCE

With that in mind, we’re not overly impressed with TrueBlue’s ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

I will like TrueBlue 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.