Why We Like J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:JBHT) 18% Return On Capital Employed

Today we’ll look at J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. (NASDAQ:JBHT) 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.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

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

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. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 J.B. Hunt Transport Services:

0.18 = US$681m ÷ (US$5.1b – US$1.4b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, J.B. Hunt Transport Services has an ROCE of 18%.

View our latest analysis for J.B. Hunt Transport Services

Is J.B. Hunt Transport Services’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, J.B. Hunt Transport Services’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 11% average in the Transportation industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Separate from J.B. Hunt Transport Services’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

NasdaqGS:JBHT Past Revenue and Net Income, April 4th 2019
NasdaqGS:JBHT Past Revenue and Net Income, April 4th 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 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect J.B. Hunt Transport Services’s 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.

J.B. Hunt Transport Services has total assets of US$5.1b and current liabilities of US$1.4b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 27% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

Our Take On J.B. Hunt Transport Services’s ROCE

Overall, J.B. Hunt Transport Services has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. But note: J.B. Hunt Transport Services 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).

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.