FedEx Corporation (NYSE:FDX) Might Not Be A Great Investment

Today we’ll look at FedEx Corporation (NYSE:FDX) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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.

First, 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 FedEx:

0.026 = US$1.5b ÷ (US$68b – US$9.9b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to August 2019.)

Therefore, FedEx has an ROCE of 2.6%.

See our latest analysis for FedEx

Does FedEx Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, FedEx’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 10% average reported by the Logistics industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Independently of how FedEx compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

FedEx’s current ROCE of 2.6% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 13% ROCE. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. Take a look at the image below to see how FedEx’s past growth compares to the average in its industry.

NYSE:FDX Past Revenue and Net Income, November 12th 2019
NYSE:FDX Past Revenue and Net Income, November 12th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. 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 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 FedEx’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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

FedEx has total assets of US$68b and current liabilities of US$9.9b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 15% of its total assets. This is not a high level of current liabilities, which would not boost the ROCE by much.

Our Take On FedEx’s ROCE

That’s not a bad thing, however FedEx has a weak ROCE and may not be an attractive investment. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

FedEx is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.

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.