Why We’re Not Keen On CalAmp Corp.’s (NASDAQ:CAMP) 2.7% Return On Capital

Today we’ll evaluate CalAmp Corp. (NASDAQ:CAMP) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 CalAmp:

0.027 = US$15m ÷ (US$608m – US$98m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to November 2018.)

Therefore, CalAmp has an ROCE of 2.7%.

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Does CalAmp Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see CalAmp’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Communications industry average of 7.5%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Regardless of how CalAmp stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is quite low (especially compared to a bank account). There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.

CalAmp’s current ROCE of 2.7% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 9.9%, 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NasdaqGS:CAMP Last Perf January 16th 19
NasdaqGS:CAMP Last Perf January 16th 19

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for CalAmp.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect CalAmp’s 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 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.

CalAmp has total liabilities of US$98m and total assets of US$608m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 16% of its total assets. With a very reasonable level of current liabilities, so the impact on ROCE is fairly minimal.

What We Can Learn From CalAmp’s ROCE

CalAmp has a poor ROCE, and there may be better investment prospects out there. You might be able to find a better buy than CalAmp. 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.

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.