How Do NextEra Energy, Inc.’s (NYSE:NEE) Returns Compare To Its Industry?

Today we’ll look at NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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.’

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 NextEra Energy:

0.061 = US$6.0b ÷ (US$99b – US$13b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, NextEra Energy has an ROCE of 6.1%.

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Does NextEra Energy Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, we find that NextEra Energy’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 5.1% average in the Electric Utilities industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Aside from the industry comparison, NextEra Energy’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

NYSE:NEE Last Perf January 21st 19
NYSE:NEE Last Perf January 21st 19

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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 NextEra Energy.

NextEra Energy’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

NextEra Energy has total liabilities of US$13b and total assets of US$99b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 13% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From NextEra Energy’s ROCE

That said, NextEra Energy’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. You might be able to find a better buy than NextEra Energy. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.