Shareholders Should Look Hard At ForFarmers N.V.’s (AMS:FFARM) 15% Return On Capital

Today we’ll evaluate ForFarmers N.V. (AMS:FFARM) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

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

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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?

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 ForFarmers:

0.15 = €74m ÷ (€785m – €273m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

So, ForFarmers has an ROCE of 15%.

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Is ForFarmers’s ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In our analysis, ForFarmers’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 11% average in the Food industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of where ForFarmers sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

ENXTAM:FFARM Last Perf January 15th 19
ENXTAM:FFARM Last Perf January 15th 19

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do ForFarmers’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

ForFarmers has total assets of €785m and current liabilities of €273m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 35% of its total assets. With this level of current liabilities, ForFarmers’s ROCE is boosted somewhat.

The Bottom Line On ForFarmers’s ROCE

While its ROCE looks good, it’s worth remembering that the current liabilities are making the business look better. 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.

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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.