Shareholders Should Look Hard At Corning Incorporated’s (NYSE:GLW) 6.6% Return On Capital

Today we’ll evaluate Corning Incorporated (NYSE:GLW) 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.

First of all, we’ll work out how to 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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. In the end, ROCE is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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?

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 Corning:

0.066 = US$1.6b ÷ (US$26b – US$3.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, Corning has an ROCE of 6.6%.

Check out our latest analysis for Corning

Does Corning Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see Corning’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Electronic industry average of 12%. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Aside from the industry comparison, Corning’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.

NYSE:GLW Last Perf December 19th 18
NYSE:GLW Last Perf December 19th 18

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Corning.

Corning’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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) unfairly boost the ROCE. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Corning has total liabilities of US$3.1b and total assets of US$26b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 12% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From Corning’s ROCE

If Corning continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. A good or bad ROCE tells us something about a business, but we need to do more research before making a purchase. For example, I often check if insiders have been buying shares .

Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking elsewhere. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies.

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.