CanWel Building Materials Group Ltd.’s (TSE:CWX) Investment Returns Are Lagging Its Industry

Today we’ll look at CanWel Building Materials Group Ltd. (TSE:CWX) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

First up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding 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. 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 CanWel Building Materials Group:

0.052 = CA$39m ÷ (CA$931m – CA$168m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, CanWel Building Materials Group has an ROCE of 5.2%.

View our latest analysis for CanWel Building Materials Group

Is CanWel Building Materials Group’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In this analysis, CanWel Building Materials Group’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 11% average reported by the Trade Distributors industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how CanWel Building Materials Group stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

We can see that, CanWel Building Materials Group currently has an ROCE of 5.2%, less than the 7.4% it reported 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how CanWel Building Materials Group’s past growth compares to other companies.

TSX:CWX Past Revenue and Net Income, January 16th 2020
TSX:CWX Past Revenue and Net Income, January 16th 2020

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 misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for CanWel Building Materials Group.

CanWel Building Materials Group’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

CanWel Building Materials Group has total liabilities of CA$168m and total assets of CA$931m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 18% 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 CanWel Building Materials Group’s ROCE

That said, CanWel Building Materials Group’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E 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.

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.