Why We Like Chesapeake Energy Corporation’s (NYSE:CHK) 9.9% Return On Capital Employed

Today we’ll evaluate Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK) 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it 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 Chesapeake Energy:

0.099 = US$1.4b ÷ (US$17b – US$2.9b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Chesapeake Energy has an ROCE of 9.9%.

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Is Chesapeake Energy’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, we find that Chesapeake Energy’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 7.4% average in the Oil and Gas industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Chesapeake Energy’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Chesapeake Energy delivered an ROCE of 9.9%, which is better than 3 years ago, as was making losses back then. That suggests the business has returned to profitability.

NYSE:CHK Past Revenue and Net Income, May 23rd 2019
NYSE:CHK Past Revenue and Net Income, May 23rd 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Given the industry it operates in, Chesapeake Energy could be considered cyclical. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Chesapeake Energy.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Chesapeake Energy’s ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

Chesapeake Energy has total assets of US$17b and current liabilities of US$2.9b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 18% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Chesapeake Energy’s ROCE

That said, Chesapeake Energy’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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.