A Close Look At Sysco Corporation’s (NYSE:SYY) 22% ROCE

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Today we’ll look at Sysco Corporation (NYSE:SYY) 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. 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. 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 Sysco:

0.22 = US$2.5b ÷ (US$18b – US$6.8b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Sysco has an ROCE of 22%.

Check out our latest analysis for Sysco

Does Sysco Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Sysco’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 10% average in the Consumer Retailing industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Sysco’s ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

NYSE:SYY Past Revenue and Net Income, May 1st 2019
NYSE:SYY Past Revenue and Net Income, May 1st 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during 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.

How Sysco’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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Sysco has total assets of US$18b and current liabilities of US$6.8b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 37% of its total assets. Sysco’s ROCE is boosted somewhat by its middling amount of current liabilities.

Our Take On Sysco’s ROCE

Despite this, it reports a high ROCE, and may be worth investigating further. There might be better investments than Sysco out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

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