Is Quest Diagnostics Incorporated’s (NYSE:DGX) 12% Return On Capital Employed Good News?

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Today we’ll evaluate Quest Diagnostics Incorporated (NYSE:DGX) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

What is 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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.’

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Quest Diagnostics:

0.12 = US$1.2b ÷ (US$12b – US$2.3b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Quest Diagnostics has an ROCE of 12%.

See our latest analysis for Quest Diagnostics

Does Quest Diagnostics Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Quest Diagnostics’s ROCE appears to be around the 12% average of the Healthcare industry. Independently of how Quest Diagnostics compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

NYSE:DGX Past Revenue and Net Income, May 30th 2019
NYSE:DGX Past Revenue and Net Income, May 30th 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Quest Diagnostics.

How Quest Diagnostics’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Quest Diagnostics has total assets of US$12b and current liabilities of US$2.3b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 19% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

The Bottom Line On Quest Diagnostics’s ROCE

With that in mind, Quest Diagnostics’s ROCE appears pretty good. Quest Diagnostics shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

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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.