Examining Birla Corporation Limited’s (NSE:BIRLACORPN) Weak Return On Capital Employed

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

Today we’ll look at Birla Corporation Limited (NSE:BIRLACORPN) 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. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

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

ROCE is a measure of a company’s yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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 Birla:

0.064 = ₹6.1b ÷ (₹113b – ₹18b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Birla has an ROCE of 6.4%.

See our latest analysis for Birla

Does Birla Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, Birla’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 9.2% average reported by the Basic Materials industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Putting aside Birla’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor – considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

Our data shows that Birla currently has an ROCE of 6.4%, compared to its ROCE of 3.5% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NSEI:BIRLACORPN Past Revenue and Net Income, July 1st 2019
NSEI:BIRLACORPN Past Revenue and Net Income, July 1st 2019

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 only a point-in-time measure. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Birla’s ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Birla has total liabilities of ₹18b and total assets of ₹113b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 16% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which will have a limited impact on the ROCE.

Our Take On Birla’s ROCE

Birla has a poor ROCE, and there may be better investment prospects out there. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.