Is ICO Group Limited (HKG:1460) Investing Your Capital Efficiently?

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Today we are going to look at ICO Group Limited (HKG:1460) 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. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. 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.

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 ICO Group:

0.075 = HK$32m ÷ (HK$543m – HK$121m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, ICO Group has an ROCE of 7.5%.

Check out our latest analysis for ICO Group

Does ICO Group Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, ICO Group’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 11% average reported by the IT 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, ICO Group’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.

ICO Group’s current ROCE of 7.5% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 25%, 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how ICO Group’s past growth compares to other companies.

SEHK:1460 Past Revenue and Net Income, December 31st 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. If ICO Group is cyclical, it could make sense to check out this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

ICO Group’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 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.

ICO Group has total liabilities of HK$121m and total assets of HK$543m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 22% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On ICO Group’s ROCE

With that in mind, we’re not overly impressed with ICO Group’s ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. You might be able to find a better investment than ICO Group. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.

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