Are Koppers Holdings Inc.’s Returns On Capital Worth Investigating?

Today we’ll evaluate Koppers Holdings Inc. (NYSE:KOP) 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 of all, we’ll work out how to 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. 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?

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 Koppers Holdings:

0.095 = US$126m ÷ (US$1.6b – US$277m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Koppers Holdings has an ROCE of 9.5%.

View our latest analysis for Koppers Holdings

Does Koppers Holdings Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Koppers Holdings’s ROCE appears to be around the 10% average of the Chemicals industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Koppers Holdings’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.

NYSE:KOP Past Revenue and Net Income, August 28th 2019
NYSE:KOP Past Revenue and Net Income, August 28th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during 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 Koppers Holdings.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Koppers Holdings’s 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Koppers Holdings has total liabilities of US$277m and total assets of US$1.6b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 17% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Koppers Holdings’s ROCE

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

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 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.