Why Canadian Solar Inc.’s (NASDAQ:CSIQ) Return On Capital Employed Is Impressive

Today we’ll look at Canadian Solar Inc. (NASDAQ:CSIQ) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

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. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Canadian Solar:

0.13 = US$281m ÷ (US$5.3b – US$3.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, Canadian Solar has an ROCE of 13%.

View our latest analysis for Canadian Solar

Is Canadian Solar’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, we find that Canadian Solar’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 9.7% average in the Semiconductor industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of where Canadian Solar sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Canadian Solar’s past growth compares to other companies.

NasdaqGS:CSIQ Past Revenue and Net Income, February 23rd 2020
NasdaqGS:CSIQ Past Revenue and Net Income, February 23rd 2020

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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Canadian Solar.

How Canadian Solar’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Canadian Solar has total assets of US$5.3b and current liabilities of US$3.1b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 58% of its total assets. Canadian Solar has a relatively high level of current liabilities, boosting its ROCE meaningfully.

The Bottom Line On Canadian Solar’s ROCE

This ROCE is pretty good, but remember that it would look less impressive with fewer current liabilities. There might be better investments than Canadian Solar out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

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

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.

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