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Is Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB) Better Than Average At Deploying Capital?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Albemarle Corporation (NYSE:ALB) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Overall, it 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.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Albemarle:

0.11 = US$748m ÷ (US$8.1b - US$1.4b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Albemarle has an ROCE of 11%.

View our latest analysis for Albemarle

Does Albemarle Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. It appears that Albemarle's ROCE is fairly close to the Chemicals industry average of 9.9%. Separate from Albemarle's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

We can see that, Albemarle currently has an ROCE of 11% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 7.0%. This makes us think the business might be improving. You can see in the image below how Albemarle's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:ALB Past Revenue and Net Income, February 5th 2020

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Albemarle's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

Albemarle has total assets of US$8.1b and current liabilities of US$1.4b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 17% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

The Bottom Line On Albemarle's ROCE

Overall, Albemarle has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. Albemarle shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

I will like Albemarle better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.