Is STERIS plc’s (NYSE:STE) Return On Capital Employed Any Good?

Today we’ll evaluate STERIS plc (NYSE:STE) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. In particular, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

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. 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?

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 STERIS:

0.099 = US$454m ÷ (US$5.1b – US$465m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, STERIS has an ROCE of 9.9%.

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Does STERIS Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, STERIS’s ROCE appears to be around the 10% average of the Medical Equipment industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, STERIS’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

As we can see, STERIS currently has an ROCE of 9.9% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 6.0%. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly.

NYSE:STE Past Revenue and Net Income, May 24th 2019
NYSE:STE Past Revenue and Net Income, May 24th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during 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 STERIS.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect STERIS’s ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

STERIS has total assets of US$5.1b and current liabilities of US$465m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 9.2% of its total assets. STERIS has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

Our Take On STERIS’s ROCE

If performance improves, then STERIS may be an OK investment, especially at the right valuation. You might be able to find a better investment than STERIS. 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).

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.