How Do Universal Electronics Inc.’s (NASDAQ:UEIC) Returns On Capital Compare To Peers?

Today we’ll evaluate Universal Electronics Inc. (NASDAQ:UEIC) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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 up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. 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. 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.’

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

Analysts use this formula to calculate return on capital employed:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets – Current Liabilities)

Or for Universal Electronics:

0.013 = US$25m ÷ (US$561m – US$273m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, Universal Electronics has an ROCE of 1.4%.

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Does Universal Electronics Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Universal Electronics’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Consumer Durables industry average of 11%. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Independently of how Universal Electronics compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

As we can see, Universal Electronics currently has an ROCE of 1.4%, less than the 14% it reported 3 years ago. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently.

NASDAQGS:UEIC Last Perf January 30th 19
NASDAQGS:UEIC Last Perf January 30th 19

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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 Universal Electronics.

Universal Electronics’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Universal Electronics has total assets of US$561m and current liabilities of US$273m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 49% of its total assets. Universal Electronics has a medium level of current liabilities (boosting the ROCE somewhat), and a low ROCE.

Our Take On Universal Electronics’s ROCE

So researching other companies may be a better use of your time. You might be able to find a better buy than Universal Electronics. 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).

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

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.