Are Matson, Inc.’s (NYSE:MATX) Returns On Investment Worth Your While?

Today we’ll evaluate Matson, Inc. (NYSE:MATX) 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. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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 Matson:

0.052 = US$115m ÷ (US$2.7b – US$425m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Matson has an ROCE of 5.2%.

View our latest analysis for Matson

Is Matson’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, Matson’s ROCE appears to be around the 5.2% average of the Shipping industry. Independently of how Matson compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

Matson’s current ROCE of 5.2% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 15% ROCE. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NYSE:MATX Past Revenue and Net Income, August 14th 2019
NYSE:MATX Past Revenue and Net Income, August 14th 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 Matson.

Do Matson’s Current Liabilities Skew Its 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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Matson has total assets of US$2.7b and current liabilities of US$425m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 16% of its total assets. This is not a high level of current liabilities, which would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From Matson’s ROCE

That’s not a bad thing, however Matson has a weak ROCE and may not be an attractive investment. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Matson. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

I will like Matson 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.