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Should You Like AmerisourceBergen Corporation’s (NYSE:ABC) High Return On Capital Employed?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at AmerisourceBergen Corporation (NYSE:ABC) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 AmerisourceBergen:

0.18 = US$1.8b ÷ (US$38b - US$29b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, AmerisourceBergen has an ROCE of 18%.

Check out our latest analysis for AmerisourceBergen

Is AmerisourceBergen's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, we find that AmerisourceBergen's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 11% average in the Healthcare industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Separate from AmerisourceBergen's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

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

NYSE:ABC Past Revenue and Net Income, August 29th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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 only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for AmerisourceBergen.

How AmerisourceBergen'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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

AmerisourceBergen has total liabilities of US$29b and total assets of US$38b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 75% of its total assets. AmerisourceBergen has a relatively high level of current liabilities, boosting its ROCE meaningfully.

Our Take On AmerisourceBergen's ROCE

While its ROCE looks decent, it wouldn't look so good if it reduced current liabilities. AmerisourceBergen 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.

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. Thank you for reading.