Are Enbridge Inc.’s Returns On Capital Worth Investigating?

Today we are going to look at Enbridge Inc. (TSE:ENB) 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.

Firstly, 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.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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.’

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 Enbridge:

0.056 = CA$8.4b ÷ (CA$165b – CA$13b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Enbridge has an ROCE of 5.6%.

See our latest analysis for Enbridge

Is Enbridge’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see Enbridge’s ROCE is around the 5.8% average reported by the Oil and Gas industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Enbridge’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

TSX:ENB Past Revenue and Net Income, August 19th 2019
TSX:ENB Past Revenue and Net Income, August 19th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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 only a point-in-time measure. Remember that most companies like Enbridge 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 Enbridge’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 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.

Enbridge has total liabilities of CA$13b and total assets of CA$165b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 8.1% of its total assets. Enbridge has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Enbridge’s ROCE

Enbridge looks like an ok business, but on this analysis it is not at the top of our buy list. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.