Should You Like Motorola Solutions, Inc.’s (NYSE:MSI) High Return On Capital Employed?

Today we’ll evaluate Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE:MSI) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

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

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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Motorola Solutions:

0.23 = US$1.6b ÷ (US$10.0b – US$2.9b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Motorola Solutions has an ROCE of 23%.

View our latest analysis for Motorola Solutions

Is Motorola Solutions’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, Motorola Solutions’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 7.2% average in the Communications 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, Motorola Solutions’s ROCE is currently very good.

Our data shows that Motorola Solutions currently has an ROCE of 23%, compared to its ROCE of 17% 3 years ago. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly.

NYSE:MSI Past Revenue and Net Income, August 15th 2019
NYSE:MSI Past Revenue and Net Income, August 15th 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 misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the 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.

Do Motorola Solutions’s Current Liabilities Skew Its 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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Motorola Solutions has total assets of US$10.0b and current liabilities of US$2.9b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 29% of its total assets. This is quite a low level of current liabilities which would not greatly boost the already high ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Motorola Solutions’s ROCE

This is good to see, and with such a high ROCE, Motorola Solutions may be worth a closer look. Motorola Solutions 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.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.