Are Enel SpA’s (BIT:ENEL) Returns On Investment Worth Your While?

Today we’ll evaluate Enel SpA (BIT:ENEL) 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.

First up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

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

ROCE is a measure of a company’s yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the 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. 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 Enel:

0.077 = €10b ÷ (€170b – €39b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, Enel has an ROCE of 7.7%.

View our latest analysis for Enel

Does Enel Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see Enel’s ROCE is around the 7.0% average reported by the Electric Utilities industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Enel’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.

The image below shows how Enel’s ROCE compares to its industry.

BIT:ENEL Past Revenue and Net Income, November 19th 2019
BIT:ENEL Past Revenue and Net Income, November 19th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Enel.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Enel’s ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. 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.

Enel has total liabilities of €39b and total assets of €170b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 23% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Enel’s ROCE

If Enel continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Enel. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

I will like Enel 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.