Should You Worry About Arconic Inc.’s (NYSE:ARNC) ROCE?

Today we are going to look at Arconic Inc. (NYSE:ARNC) 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.

First of all, we’ll work out how to 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 ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 Arconic:

0.086 = US$1.3b ÷ (US$18b – US$3.7b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Arconic has an ROCE of 8.6%.

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Check out our latest analysis for Arconic

Does Arconic Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Arconic’s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 12% average in the Aerospace & Defense industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Separate from how Arconic stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

As we can see, Arconic currently has an ROCE of 8.6% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 3.5%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NYSE:ARNC Past Revenue and Net Income, May 20th 2019
NYSE:ARNC Past Revenue and Net Income, May 20th 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 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Arconic.

How Arconic’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that 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.

Arconic has total liabilities of US$3.7b and total assets of US$18b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 20% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Arconic’s ROCE

With that in mind, we’re not overly impressed with Arconic’s ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. You might be able to find a better investment than Arconic. 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).

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.