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Are Antofagasta plc’s Returns On Capital Worth Investigating?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Antofagasta plc (LON:ANTO) 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. 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.

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 Antofagasta:

0.10 = US$1.4b ÷ (US$15b - US$1.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

So, Antofagasta has an ROCE of 10%.

Check out our latest analysis for Antofagasta

Does Antofagasta Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Antofagasta's ROCE appears to be around the 13% average of the Metals and Mining industry. Independently of how Antofagasta compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

We can see that, Antofagasta currently has an ROCE of 10% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 7.5%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can see in the image below how Antofagasta's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

LSE:ANTO Past Revenue and Net Income June 21st 2020

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. We note Antofagasta could be considered a cyclical business. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Antofagasta.

How Antofagasta's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that 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.

Antofagasta has total assets of US$15b and current liabilities of US$1.5b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 11% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

Our Take On Antofagasta's ROCE

With that in mind, Antofagasta's ROCE appears pretty good. Antofagasta 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.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.