A Close Look At Whitbread PLC’s (LON:WTB) 15% ROCE

Today we are going to look at Whitbread PLC (LON:WTB) 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.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. 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 amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed 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 Whitbread:

0.15 = UK£619m ÷ (UK£5.0b – UK£822m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to August 2018.)

So, Whitbread has an ROCE of 15%.

See our latest analysis for Whitbread

Does Whitbread Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, we find that Whitbread’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 8.5% average in the Hospitality industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Independently of how Whitbread compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

LSE:WTB Past Revenue and Net Income, March 25th 2019
LSE:WTB Past Revenue and Net Income, March 25th 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, 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 Whitbread.

Whitbread’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Whitbread has total assets of UK£5.0b and current liabilities of UK£822m. 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 Whitbread’s ROCE

Overall, Whitbread has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. You might be able to find a better buy than Whitbread. 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 are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.