Today we’ll look at WD-40 Company (NASDAQ:WDFC) 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.
Firstly, we’ll go over how we 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.
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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?
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 WD-40:
0.34 = US$76m ÷ (US$295m – US$67m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to November 2018.)
So, WD-40 has an ROCE of 34%.
Does WD-40 Have A Good ROCE?
One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. WD-40’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 14% average in the Household Products industry. I think that’s good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Putting aside its position relative to its industry for now, in absolute terms, WD-40’s ROCE is currently very good.
Our data shows that WD-40 currently has an ROCE of 34%, compared to its ROCE of 22% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving.
When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. 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 WD-40.
WD-40’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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.
WD-40 has total assets of US$295m and current liabilities of US$67m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 23% of its total assets. A minimal amount of current liabilities limits the impact on ROCE.
What We Can Learn From WD-40’s ROCE
Low current liabilities and high ROCE is a good combination, making WD-40 look quite interesting. But note: WD-40 may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).
If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.