Is Extendicare Inc.’s (TSE:EXE) Return On Capital Employed Any Good?

Today we'll evaluate Extendicare Inc. (TSE:EXE) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

Analysts use this formula to calculate return on capital employed:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)

Or for Extendicare:

0.087 = CA\$57m ÷ (CA\$889m - CA\$231m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Extendicare has an ROCE of 8.7%.

Is Extendicare's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Extendicare's ROCE appears to be around the 10% average of the Healthcare industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Extendicare'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.

The image below shows how Extendicare's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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 Extendicare.

Do Extendicare's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

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

Extendicare has total liabilities of CA\$231m and total assets of CA\$889m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 26% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

The Bottom Line On Extendicare's ROCE

That said, Extendicare's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. You might be able to find a better investment than Extendicare. 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).

I will like Extendicare 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. Thank you for reading.