Should You Worry About Metro AG’s (ETR:B4B) ROCE?

Today we are going to look at Metro AG (ETR:B4B) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

First, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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 Metro:

0.10 = €662m ÷ (€15b – €8.7b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, Metro has an ROCE of 10%.

See our latest analysis for Metro

Does Metro Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Metro’s ROCE appears to be around the 10% average of the Consumer Retailing industry. Regardless of where Metro sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

XTRA:B4B Last Perf January 8th 19
XTRA:B4B Last Perf January 8th 19

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Metro.

How Metro’s Current Liabilities Impact 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. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Metro has total assets of €15b and current liabilities of €8.7b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 57% of its total assets. Metro’s current liabilities are fairly high, which increases its ROCE significantly.

The Bottom Line On Metro’s ROCE

The ROCE would not look as appealing if the company had fewer current liabilities. You might be able to find a better buy than Metro. 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).

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

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.