Should You Worry About WestRock Company’s (NYSE:WRK) ROCE?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate WestRock Company (NYSE:WRK) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we 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.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed 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. 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?

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 WestRock:

0.053 = US$1.5b ÷ (US$31b - US$3.4b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

Therefore, WestRock has an ROCE of 5.3%.

See our latest analysis for WestRock

Is WestRock's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, WestRock's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 10% average in the Packaging 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, WestRock'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.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how WestRock's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:WRK Past Revenue and Net Income April 1st 2020

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 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.

WestRock's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

WestRock has current liabilities of US$3.4b and total assets of US$31b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 11% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

Our Take On WestRock's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with WestRock's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. You might be able to find a better investment than WestRock. 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).

There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. You probably do not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.