Today we'll look at HC Group Inc. (HKG:2280) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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.
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.
Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?
ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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'.
How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?
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 HC Group:
0.026 = CN¥171m ÷ (CN¥8.8b - CN¥2.3b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)
Therefore, HC Group has an ROCE of 2.6%.
Is HC Group's ROCE Good?
One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, HC Group's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 5.8% average in the Trade Distributors industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Independently of how HC Group compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.0% available in government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.
In our analysis, HC Group's ROCE appears to be 2.6%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 0.8%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. The image below shows how HC Group's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.
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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for HC Group.
HC 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. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.
HC Group has total liabilities of CN¥2.3b and total assets of CN¥8.8b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 26% of its total assets. With a very reasonable level of current liabilities, so the impact on ROCE is fairly minimal.
The Bottom Line On HC Group's ROCE
That's not a bad thing, however HC Group has a weak ROCE and may not be an attractive investment. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than HC Group. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.
If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.