Why Casey’s General Stores, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:CASY) Return On Capital Employed Looks Uninspiring

Today we’ll evaluate Casey’s General Stores, Inc. (NASDAQ:CASY) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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 up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, ROCE 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?

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 Casey’s General Stores:

0.091 = US$266m ÷ (US$3.5b – US$471m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to October 2018.)

So, Casey’s General Stores has an ROCE of 9.1%.

View our latest analysis for Casey’s General Stores

Does Casey’s General Stores Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Casey’s General Stores’s ROCE appears to be around the 9.6% average of the Consumer Retailing industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Casey’s General Stores’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

Casey’s General Stores’s current ROCE of 9.1% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 17% ROCE. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

NasdaqGS:CASY Last Perf December 17th 18
NasdaqGS:CASY Last Perf December 17th 18

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Casey’s General Stores.

Casey’s General Stores’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Casey’s General Stores has total liabilities of US$471m and total assets of US$3.5b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 13% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Casey’s General Stores’s ROCE

That said, Casey’s General Stores’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. The ROCE can give us an idea of the quality of a business, but we need to look deeper if we are considering a purchase. One data point to check is if insiders have bought shares recently.

If you would prefer check out another company — one with potentially superior financials — then do not miss this free list of interesting companies, that have HIGH return on equity and low debt.

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.