Should Bonavista Energy Corporation’s (TSE:BNP) Weak Investment Returns Worry You?

Today we’ll look at Bonavista Energy Corporation (TSE:BNP) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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 up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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?

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 Bonavista Energy:

0.032 = CA$91m ÷ (CA$2.9b – CA$119m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Bonavista Energy has an ROCE of 3.2%.

View our latest analysis for Bonavista Energy

Is Bonavista Energy’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In this analysis, Bonavista Energy’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 4.8% average reported by the Oil and Gas industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Putting aside Bonavista Energy’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor – considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

Bonavista Energy has an ROCE of 3.2%, but it didn’t have an ROCE 3 years ago, since it was unprofitable. That suggests the business has returned to profitability.

TSX:BNP Past Revenue and Net Income, February 27th 2019
TSX:BNP Past Revenue and Net Income, February 27th 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Remember that most companies like Bonavista Energy are cyclical businesses. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do Bonavista Energy’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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Bonavista Energy has total liabilities of CA$119m and total assets of CA$2.9b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 4.1% of its total assets. Bonavista Energy has a low level of current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its already low ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Bonavista Energy’s ROCE

Nonetheless, there may be better places to invest your capital. But note: Bonavista Energy may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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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.