United Rentals, Inc. (NYSE:URI) Earns Among The Best Returns In Its Industry

Today we’ll evaluate United Rentals, Inc. (NYSE:URI) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 United Rentals:

0.13 = US$2.2b ÷ (US$19b – US$2.2b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

So, United Rentals has an ROCE of 13%.

View our latest analysis for United Rentals

Does United Rentals Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, United Rentals’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 9.4% average in the Trade Distributors industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Separate from United Rentals’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

You can see in the image below how United Rentals’s ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:URI Past Revenue and Net Income, February 18th 2020
NYSE:URI Past Revenue and Net Income, February 18th 2020

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for United Rentals.

Do United Rentals’s Current Liabilities Skew 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

United Rentals has total assets of US$19b and current liabilities of US$2.2b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 12% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From United Rentals’s ROCE

With that in mind, United Rentals’s ROCE appears pretty good. United Rentals 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.

If you are like me, then you will 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.