Why We Like Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:CBRL) 24% Return On Capital Employed

Today we are going to look at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. (NASDAQ:CBRL) 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 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.

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. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since ‘No two businesses are exactly alike.’

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 Cracker Barrel Old Country Store:

0.24 = US$284m ÷ (US$1.6b – US$380m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to February 2019.)

Therefore, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store has an ROCE of 24%.

View our latest analysis for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

Is Cracker Barrel Old Country Store’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In our analysis, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 10% average in the Hospitality industry. I think that’s good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store’s ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

NasdaqGS:CBRL Past Revenue and Net Income, March 23rd 2019
NasdaqGS:CBRL Past Revenue and Net Income, March 23rd 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 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store.

Do Cracker Barrel Old Country Store’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. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store has total assets of US$1.6b and current liabilities of US$380m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 24% of its total assets. A minimal amount of current liabilities limits the impact on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Cracker Barrel Old Country Store’s ROCE

This is good to see, and with such a high ROCE, Cracker Barrel Old Country Store may be worth a closer look. But note: Cracker Barrel Old Country Store may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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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.