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Do AK Steel Holding Corporation’s (NYSE:AKS) Returns On Capital Employed Make The Cut?

Chris Amalia

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Today we are going to look at AK Steel Holding Corporation (NYSE:AKS) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. 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?

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 AK Steel Holding:

0.11 = US$384m ÷ (US$4.5b – US$1.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, AK Steel Holding has an ROCE of 11%.

Check out our latest analysis for AK Steel Holding

Is AK Steel Holding’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, AK Steel Holding’s ROCE appears to be around the 11% average of the Metals and Mining industry. Independently of how AK Steel Holding compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

Our data shows that AK Steel Holding currently has an ROCE of 11%, compared to its ROCE of 8.1% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NYSE:AKS Past Revenue and Net Income, February 19th 2019
NYSE:AKS Past Revenue and Net Income, February 19th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. Given the industry it operates in, AK Steel Holding could be considered cyclical. 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 AK Steel Holding’s ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

AK Steel Holding has total assets of US$4.5b and current liabilities of US$1.1b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 25% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From AK Steel Holding’s ROCE

With that in mind, AK Steel Holding’s ROCE appears pretty good. 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.

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

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. On rare occasion, data errors may occur. Thank you for reading.