What Can We Make Of Inter Pipeline Ltd.’s (TSE:IPL) High Return On Capital?

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Today we’ll evaluate Inter Pipeline Ltd. (TSE:IPL) 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.

First up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. 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 is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 Inter Pipeline:

0.10 = CA$976m ÷ (CA$11b – CA$1.8b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Inter Pipeline has an ROCE of 10%.

See our latest analysis for Inter Pipeline

Does Inter Pipeline Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, we find that Inter Pipeline’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 6.0% average in the Oil and Gas industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Separate from Inter Pipeline’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

TSX:IPL Past Revenue and Net Income, May 10th 2019
TSX:IPL Past Revenue and Net Income, May 10th 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 only a point-in-time measure. Remember that most companies like Inter Pipeline are cyclical businesses. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Inter Pipeline.

How Inter Pipeline’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Inter Pipeline has total assets of CA$11b and current liabilities of CA$1.8b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 16% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Inter Pipeline’s ROCE

With that in mind, Inter Pipeline’s ROCE appears pretty good. Inter Pipeline shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

I will like Inter Pipeline better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.