Why Orange S.A.’s (EPA:ORA) Return On Capital Employed Looks Uninspiring

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Today we’ll look at Orange S.A. (EPA:ORA) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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 of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Orange:

0.084 = €5.6b ÷ (€95b – €28b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

Therefore, Orange has an ROCE of 8.4%.

View our latest analysis for Orange

Does Orange Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Orange’s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 11% average in the Telecom industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Orange’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

ENXTPA:ORA Last Perf February 11th 19
ENXTPA:ORA Last Perf February 11th 19

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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 Orange.

Do Orange’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

Orange has total liabilities of €28b and total assets of €95b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 30% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Orange’s ROCE

That said, Orange’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. You might be able to find a better buy than Orange. 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).

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.