Examining SMU S.A.’s (SNSE:SMU) Weak Return On Capital Employed

Today we’ll evaluate SMU S.A. (SNSE:SMU) 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 of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. 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 is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested 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.

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 SMU:

0.072 = CL$108b ÷ (CL$2.0t – CL$515b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, SMU has an ROCE of 7.2%.

View our latest analysis for SMU

Does SMU Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see SMU’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Consumer Retailing industry average of 9.0%. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Putting aside SMU’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor – considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

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

SNSE:SMU Past Revenue and Net Income, January 21st 2020
SNSE:SMU Past Revenue and Net Income, January 21st 2020

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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for SMU.

SMU’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.

SMU has total assets of CL$2.0t and current liabilities of CL$515b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 25% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which will have a limited impact on the ROCE.

What We Can Learn From SMU’s ROCE

SMU has a poor ROCE, and there may be better investment prospects out there. You might be able to find a better investment than SMU. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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

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.