Is Becton, Dickinson and Company (NYSE:BDX) Investing Your Capital Efficiently?

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Today we’ll look at Becton, Dickinson and Company (NYSE:BDX) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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 of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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 Becton Dickinson:

0.061 = US$2.8b ÷ (US$53b – US$7.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Becton Dickinson has an ROCE of 6.1%.

Check out our latest analysis for Becton Dickinson

Is Becton Dickinson’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In this analysis, Becton Dickinson’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 10% average reported by the Medical Equipment industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how Becton Dickinson stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Becton Dickinson’s current ROCE of 6.1% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 9.4% ROCE. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NYSE:BDX Past Revenue and Net Income, July 3rd 2019
NYSE:BDX Past Revenue and Net Income, July 3rd 2019

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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Becton Dickinson’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Becton Dickinson has total assets of US$53b and current liabilities of US$7.1b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 14% 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 Becton Dickinson’s ROCE

With that in mind, we’re not overly impressed with Becton Dickinson’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).

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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.