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Are Swallowfield plc’s Returns On Capital Worth Investigating?

Simply Wall St

Today we’ll evaluate Swallowfield plc (LON:SWL) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

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

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested 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?

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 Swallowfield:

0.14 = UK£4.8m ÷ (UK£60m – UK£25m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

Therefore, Swallowfield has an ROCE of 14%.

Check out our latest analysis for Swallowfield

Does Swallowfield Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that Swallowfield’s ROCE is fairly close to the Personal Products industry average of 14%. Separate from Swallowfield’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

In our analysis, Swallowfield’s ROCE appears to be 14%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 5.6%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

AIM:SWL Past Revenue and Net Income, March 6th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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 only a point-in-time measure. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Swallowfield’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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.

Swallowfield has total assets of UK£60m and current liabilities of UK£25m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 42% of its total assets. With this level of current liabilities, Swallowfield’s ROCE is boosted somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Swallowfield’s ROCE

While its ROCE looks good, it’s worth remembering that the current liabilities are making the business look better. 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.

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

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.