Are Portland General Electric Company’s (NYSE:POR) Returns Worth Your While?

Today we’ll evaluate Portland General Electric Company (NYSE:POR) 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.

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

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from 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.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Portland General Electric:

0.042 = US$322m ÷ (US$8.2b – US$514m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, Portland General Electric has an ROCE of 4.2%.

See our latest analysis for Portland General Electric

Is Portland General Electric’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that Portland General Electric’s ROCE is fairly close to the Electric Utilities industry average of 4.6%. Independently of how Portland General Electric compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~1.7% available in government bonds. Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

The image below shows how Portland General Electric’s ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:POR Past Revenue and Net Income, December 11th 2019
NYSE:POR Past Revenue and Net Income, December 11th 2019

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.

Do Portland General Electric’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Portland General Electric has total liabilities of US$514m and total assets of US$8.2b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 6.3% of its total assets. Portland General Electric has very few current liabilities, which have a minimal effect on its already low ROCE.

Our Take On Portland General Electric’s ROCE

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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.