Does Novanta Inc.’s (NASDAQ:NOVT) ROCE Reflect Well On The Business?

Today we are going to look at Novanta Inc. (NASDAQ:NOVT) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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?

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 Novanta:

0.13 = US$79m ÷ (US$720m – US$104m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Novanta has an ROCE of 13%.

Check out our latest analysis for Novanta

Does Novanta Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. It appears that Novanta’s ROCE is fairly close to the Electronic industry average of 11%. Independently of how Novanta compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

NasdaqGS:NOVT Past Revenue and Net Income, April 12th 2019
NasdaqGS:NOVT Past Revenue and Net Income, April 12th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Novanta.

Do Novanta’s Current Liabilities Skew Its 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 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Novanta has total assets of US$720m and current liabilities of US$104m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 14% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

The Bottom Line On Novanta’s ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Novanta could be worth a closer look. Novanta shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

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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.