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Are Ameren Corporation’s Returns On Capital Worth Investigating?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Ameren Corporation (NYSE:AEE) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. 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 is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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'.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Ameren:

0.053 = US$1.3b ÷ (US$28b - US$2.8b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Ameren has an ROCE of 5.3%.

See our latest analysis for Ameren

Is Ameren's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Ameren's ROCE is around the 4.9% average reported by the Integrated Utilities industry. Regardless of how Ameren stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is quite low (especially compared to a bank account). Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

The image below shows how Ameren's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:AEE Past Revenue and Net Income, August 5th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

How Ameren's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

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

Ameren has total liabilities of US$2.8b and total assets of US$28b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 9.8% of its total assets. With barely any current liabilities, there is minimal impact on Ameren's admittedly low ROCE.

Our Take On Ameren's ROCE

Nonetheless, there may be better places to invest your capital. 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.

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