Are Qilu Expressway Company Limited’s (HKG:1576) High Returns Really That Great?

Today we’ll look at Qilu Expressway Company Limited (HKG:1576) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a measure of a company’s yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the 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’.

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 Qilu Expressway:

0.16 = CN¥611m ÷ (CN¥4.5b – CN¥716m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Qilu Expressway has an ROCE of 16%.

View our latest analysis for Qilu Expressway

Does Qilu Expressway Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, we find that Qilu Expressway’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 7.6% average in the Infrastructure industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Separate from Qilu Expressway’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

The image below shows how Qilu Expressway’s ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

SEHK:1576 Past Revenue and Net Income, December 15th 2019
SEHK:1576 Past Revenue and Net Income, December 15th 2019

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. You can check if Qilu Expressway has cyclical profits by looking at this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

Do Qilu Expressway’s Current Liabilities Skew 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.

Qilu Expressway has total liabilities of CN¥716m and total assets of CN¥4.5b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 16% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

Our Take On Qilu Expressway’s ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Qilu Expressway could be worth a closer look. Qilu Expressway looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

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

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.