Today we are going to look at Fortis Inc. (TSE:FTS) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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, 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.
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. 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'.
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 Fortis:
0.048 = CA$2.3b ÷ (CA$53b - CA$3.9b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)
So, Fortis has an ROCE of 4.8%.
Does Fortis Have A Good ROCE?
ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that Fortis's ROCE is fairly close to the Electric Utilities industry average of 4.7%. Aside from the industry comparison, Fortis's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.
You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Fortis's past growth compares to other companies.
Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Fortis.
Fortis's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.
Fortis has total liabilities of CA$3.9b and total assets of CA$53b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 7.4% of its total assets. Fortis has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.
Our Take On Fortis's ROCE
If performance improves, then Fortis may be an OK investment, especially at the right valuation. 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.
If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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