U.S. Markets closed

Should You Like Unisys Corporation’s (NYSE:UIS) High Return On Capital Employed?

Terrence Jolly

Want to participate in a short research study ? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

Today we’ll evaluate Unisys Corporation ( NYSE:UIS ) 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. 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 measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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’.

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 Unisys:

0.17 = US$140m ÷ (US$2.3b – US$842m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, Unisys has an ROCE of 17%.

Check out our latest analysis for Unisys

Does Unisys Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, we find that Unisys’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 10% average in the IT industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Independently of how Unisys compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

Our data shows that Unisys currently has an ROCE of 17%, compared to its ROCE of 6.9% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NYSE:UIS Last Perf February 7th 19

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company .

Unisys’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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.

Unisys has total assets of US$2.3b and current liabilities of US$842m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 36% of its total assets. Unisys has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost the ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Unisys’s ROCE

With a decent ROCE, the company could be interesting, but remember that the level of current liabilities make the ROCE 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.

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

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com .