Evaluating Stadler Rail AG’s (VTX:SRAIL) Investments In Its Business

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Today we'll evaluate Stadler Rail AG (VTX:SRAIL) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. 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.'

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 Stadler Rail:

0.15 = CHF151m ÷ (CHF2.9b - CHF1.9b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Stadler Rail has an ROCE of 15%.

Check out our latest analysis for Stadler Rail

Is Stadler Rail's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Stadler Rail's ROCE is around the 14% average reported by the Machinery industry. Regardless of where Stadler Rail sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Stadler Rail's past growth compares to other companies.

SWX:SRAIL Past Revenue and Net Income, July 12th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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, 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 Stadler Rail'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.

Stadler Rail has total assets of CHF2.9b and current liabilities of CHF1.9b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 65% of its total assets. This is admittedly a high level of current liabilities, improving ROCE substantially.

Our Take On Stadler Rail's ROCE

While its ROCE looks decent, it wouldn't look so good if it reduced current liabilities. Stadler Rail 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.