Today we’ll look at The York Water Company (NASDAQ:YORW) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.
First up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. 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 York Water:
0.064 = US$23m ÷ (US$369m – US$16m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2020.)
Therefore, York Water has an ROCE of 6.4%.
Does York Water Have A Good ROCE?
When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, York Water’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 4.0% average in the Water Utilities industry. I think that’s good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Separate from how York Water stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.
You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how York Water’s past growth compares to other companies.
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 York Water.
How York Water’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE
Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.
York Water has total assets of US$369m and current liabilities of US$16m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 4.2% of its total assets. York Water reports few current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its unremarkable ROCE.
The Bottom Line On York Water’s ROCE
If performance improves, then York Water may be an OK investment, especially at the right valuation. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).
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.
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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.