Seagate Technology plc (NASDAQ:STX) Is Employing Capital Very Effectively

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Today we are going to look at Seagate Technology plc (NASDAQ:STX) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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?

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 Seagate Technology:

0.26 = US$1.7b ÷ (US$8.6b – US$2.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Seagate Technology has an ROCE of 26%.

View our latest analysis for Seagate Technology

Does Seagate Technology Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Seagate Technology’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 9.2% average in the Tech industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Seagate Technology’s ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

We can see that , Seagate Technology currently has an ROCE of 26% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 11%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NasdaqGS:STX Past Revenue and Net Income, July 10th 2019
NasdaqGS:STX Past Revenue and Net Income, July 10th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do Seagate Technology’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 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Seagate Technology has total liabilities of US$2.1b and total assets of US$8.6b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 25% of its total assets. A minimal amount of current liabilities limits the impact on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Seagate Technology’s ROCE

With low current liabilities and a high ROCE, Seagate Technology could be worthy of further investigation. Seagate Technology looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

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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.