Is Walmart Inc.’s (NYSE:WMT) 14% ROCE Any Good?

Today we are going to look at Walmart Inc. (NYSE:WMT) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. In particular, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Walmart:

0.14 = US$22b ÷ (US$235b – US$80b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to July 2019.)

Therefore, Walmart has an ROCE of 14%.

Check out our latest analysis for Walmart

Does Walmart Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, we find that Walmart’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 9.7% average in the Consumer Retailing industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of where Walmart sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Walmart’s past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:WMT Past Revenue and Net Income, October 7th 2019
NYSE:WMT Past Revenue and Net Income, October 7th 2019

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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

How Walmart’s Current Liabilities Impact 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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Walmart has total liabilities of US$80b and total assets of US$235b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 34% of its total assets. Walmart has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost the ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Walmart’s ROCE

With a decent ROCE, the company could be interesting, but remember that the level of current liabilities make the ROCE look better. There might be better investments than Walmart out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.