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Should You Worry About MTS Systems Corporation’s (NASDAQ:MTSC) ROCE?

Matthew Smith

Today we are going to look at MTS Systems Corporation ( NASDAQ:MTSC ) 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 of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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?

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 MTS Systems:

0.075 = US$68m ÷ (US$1.1b – US$239m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, MTS Systems has an ROCE of 7.5%.

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Is MTS Systems’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In this analysis, MTS Systems’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 12% 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. Aside from the industry comparison, MTS Systems’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

As we can see, MTS Systems currently has an ROCE of 7.5%, less than the 22% it reported 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

NasdaqGS:MTSC Last Perf January 23rd 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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for MTS Systems .

Do MTS Systems’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

MTS Systems has total assets of US$1.1b and current liabilities of US$239m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 21% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

The Bottom Line On MTS Systems’s ROCE

That said, MTS Systems’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. But note: MTS Systems 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).

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

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 .