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Why We’re Not Impressed By Trimble Inc.’s (NASDAQ:TRMB) 7.0% ROCE

David Owens

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Today we’ll evaluate Trimble Inc. ( NASDAQ:TRMB ) 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.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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 Trimble:

0.07 = US$332m ÷ (US$5.8b – US$1.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Trimble has an ROCE of 7.0%.

Check out our latest analysis for Trimble

Does Trimble Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, Trimble’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 11% average reported by the Electronic industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Trimble’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

NASDAQGS:TRMB Last Perf February 18th 19

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the 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 .

Trimble’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. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Trimble has total liabilities of US$1.1b and total assets of US$5.8b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 18% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Trimble’s ROCE

With that in mind, we’re not overly impressed with Trimble’s ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. But note: Trimble may not be the best stock to buy . So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

I will like Trimble better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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. On rare occasion, data errors may occur. Thank you for reading.