Today we are going to look at Tai Kam Holdings Limited (HKG:8321) 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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?
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 Tai Kam Holdings:
0.08 = HK$8.2m ÷ (HK$143m - HK$41m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to January 2019.)
So, Tai Kam Holdings has an ROCE of 8.0%.
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Is Tai Kam Holdings's ROCE Good?
When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Tai Kam Holdings's ROCE is meaningfully below the Construction industry average of 14%. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Tai Kam Holdings'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.
Tai Kam Holdings's current ROCE of 8.0% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 66% ROCE. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently.
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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. If Tai Kam Holdings is cyclical, it could make sense to check out this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.
What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Tai Kam Holdings's 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 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.
Tai Kam Holdings has total liabilities of HK$41m and total assets of HK$143m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 29% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.
The Bottom Line On Tai Kam Holdings's ROCE
That said, Tai Kam Holdings's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.