Is Perceptron, Inc. (NASDAQ:PRCP) Investing Your Capital Efficiently?

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Today we’ll evaluate Perceptron, Inc. (NASDAQ:PRCP) 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.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

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. 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’.

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 Perceptron:

0.059 = US$3.1m ÷ (US$71m – US$20m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Perceptron has an ROCE of 5.9%.

Check out our latest analysis for Perceptron

Is Perceptron’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Perceptron’s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 12% average in the Electronic industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Separate from how Perceptron stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

Perceptron delivered an ROCE of 5.9%, which is better than 3 years ago, as was making losses back then. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NasdaqGM:PRCP Past Revenue and Net Income, June 17th 2019
NasdaqGM:PRCP Past Revenue and Net Income, June 17th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. 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.

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

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

Perceptron has total assets of US$71m and current liabilities of US$20m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 28% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Perceptron’s ROCE

That said, Perceptron’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

I will like Perceptron better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.