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BKW AG’s (VTX:BKW) Investment Returns Are Lagging Its Industry

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate BKW AG (VTX:BKW) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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'.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 BKW:

0.049 = CHF372m ÷ (CHF9.1b - CHF1.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, BKW has an ROCE of 4.9%.

View our latest analysis for BKW

Does BKW Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, BKW's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 7.4% average in the Electric Utilities industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Regardless of how BKW stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is quite low (especially compared to a bank account). There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how BKW's past growth compares to other companies.

SWX:BKW Past Revenue and Net Income, November 2nd 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for BKW.

BKW'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. 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.

BKW has total liabilities of CHF1.5b and total assets of CHF9.1b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 16% of its total assets. This is not a high level of current liabilities, which would not boost the ROCE by much.

The Bottom Line On BKW's ROCE

BKW has a poor ROCE, and there may be better investment prospects out there. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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

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.