Here’s What Portland General Electric Company’s (NYSE:POR) Return On Capital Can Tell Us

Today we are going to look at Portland General Electric Company (NYSE:POR) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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.’

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 Portland General Electric:

0.042 = US$314m ÷ (US$8.0b – US$440m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

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

Check out our latest analysis for Portland General Electric

Does Portland General Electric Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, Portland General Electric’s ROCE appears to be around the 4.9% average of the Electric Utilities industry. Independently of how Portland General Electric compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

NYSE:POR Past Revenue and Net Income, August 29th 2019
NYSE:POR Past Revenue and Net Income, August 29th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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 only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Portland General Electric.

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

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Portland General Electric has total liabilities of US$440m and total assets of US$8.0b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 5.5% of its total assets. Portland General Electric has a low level of current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its already low ROCE.

Our Take On Portland General Electric’s ROCE

Nevertheless, there are potentially more attractive companies to invest in. You might be able to find a better investment than Portland General Electric. 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).

I will like Portland General Electric 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.