Shareholders Should Look Hard At WPX Energy, Inc.’s (NYSE:WPX) 5.3% Return On Capital

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Today we’ll look at WPX Energy, Inc. (NYSE:WPX) and reflect on its potential as an investment. In particular, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we 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 measure of a company’s yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the 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?

Analysts use this formula to calculate return on capital employed:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets – Current Liabilities)

Or for WPX Energy:

0.053 = US$396m ÷ (US$8.5b – US$1.0b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, WPX Energy has an ROCE of 5.3%.

See our latest analysis for WPX Energy

Does WPX Energy Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, WPX Energy’s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 7.4% average in the Oil and Gas industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Putting aside WPX Energy’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor – considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.

WPX Energy has an ROCE of 5.3%, but it didn’t have an ROCE 3 years ago, since it was unprofitable. That implies the business has been improving.

NYSE:WPX Past Revenue and Net Income, June 11th 2019
NYSE:WPX Past Revenue and Net Income, June 11th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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 only a point-in-time measure. We note WPX Energy could be considered a cyclical business. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for WPX Energy.

WPX Energy’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

WPX Energy has total assets of US$8.5b and current liabilities of US$1.0b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 12% of its total assets. With a very reasonable level of current liabilities, so the impact on ROCE is fairly minimal.

The Bottom Line On WPX Energy’s ROCE

While that is good to see, WPX Energy has a low ROCE and does not look attractive in this analysis. 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).

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.