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Hunting PLC (LON:HTG) Might Not Be A Great Investment

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Hunting PLC (LON:HTG) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First of all, we'll work out how to 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. 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?

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 Hunting:

0.059 = US$75m ÷ (US$1.4b - US$167m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Hunting has an ROCE of 5.9%.

Check out our latest analysis for Hunting

Is Hunting's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In this analysis, Hunting's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 8.5% average reported by the Energy Services industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Aside from the industry comparison, Hunting's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Hunting delivered an ROCE of 5.9%, which is better than 3 years ago, as was making losses back then. That implies the business has been improving. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Hunting's past growth compares to other companies.

LSE:HTG Past Revenue and Net Income, December 3rd 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. 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 only a point-in-time measure. Given the industry it operates in, Hunting could be considered cyclical. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Hunting.

How Hunting's Current Liabilities Impact 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Hunting has total liabilities of US$167m and total assets of US$1.4b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 12% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

The Bottom Line On Hunting's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Hunting's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.