Why We Like Campbell Soup Company’s (NYSE:CPB) 14% Return On Capital Employed

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Today we’ll evaluate Campbell Soup Company (NYSE:CPB) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE is a measure of a company’s yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Campbell Soup:

0.14 = US$1.6b ÷ (US$15b – US$3.7b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to October 2018.)

So, Campbell Soup has an ROCE of 14%.

Check out our latest analysis for Campbell Soup

Is Campbell Soup’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, Campbell Soup’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 8.8% average in the Food industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Separate from Campbell Soup’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

As we can see, Campbell Soup currently has an ROCE of 14%, less than the 21% it reported 3 years ago. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently.

NYSE:CPB Last Perf February 8th 19
NYSE:CPB Last Perf February 8th 19

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 deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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.

Do Campbell Soup’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. 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.

Campbell Soup has total liabilities of US$3.7b and total assets of US$15b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 25% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Campbell Soup’s ROCE

Overall, Campbell Soup has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. But note: Campbell Soup 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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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.