Is CMS Energy Corporation’s (NYSE:CMS) Capital Allocation Ability Worth Your Time?

Today we’ll evaluate CMS Energy Corporation (NYSE:CMS) 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.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 CMS Energy:

0.053 = US$1.2b ÷ (US$25b – US$2.4b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, CMS Energy has an ROCE of 5.3%.

View our latest analysis for CMS Energy

Is CMS Energy’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see CMS Energy’s ROCE is around the 5.0% average reported by the Integrated Utilities industry. Regardless of how CMS Energy stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is quite low (especially compared to a bank account). There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.

NYSE:CMS Past Revenue and Net Income, July 31st 2019
NYSE:CMS Past Revenue and Net Income, July 31st 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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 CMS Energy.

CMS Energy’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. 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.

CMS Energy has total assets of US$25b and current liabilities of US$2.4b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 9.4% of its total assets. CMS Energy has very few current liabilities, which have a minimal effect on its already low ROCE.

The Bottom Line On CMS Energy’s ROCE

Nonetheless, there may be better places to invest your capital. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than CMS Energy. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.