Here’s What Mueller Water Products, Inc.’s (NYSE:MWA) Return On Capital Can Tell Us

Today we’ll look at Mueller Water Products, Inc. (NYSE:MWA) 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.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

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

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested 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 Mueller Water Products:

0.13 = US$141m ÷ (US$1.3b – US$172m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Mueller Water Products has an ROCE of 13%.

View our latest analysis for Mueller Water Products

Does Mueller Water Products Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Mueller Water Products’s ROCE appears to be around the 12% average of the Machinery industry. Regardless of where Mueller Water Products sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

The image below shows how Mueller Water Products’s ROCE compares to its industry.

NYSE:MWA Past Revenue and Net Income, September 19th 2019
NYSE:MWA Past Revenue and Net Income, September 19th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. 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 Mueller Water Products.

Mueller Water Products’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Mueller Water Products has total assets of US$1.3b and current liabilities of US$172m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 13% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Mueller Water Products’s ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Mueller Water Products could be worth a closer look. Mueller Water Products looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

Mueller Water Products is not the only stock that insiders are buying. For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.