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Brown-Forman Corporation (NYSE:BF.B) Is Employing Capital Very Effectively

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Brown-Forman Corporation (NYSE:BF.B) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

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.

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. 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'.

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 Brown-Forman:

0.25 = US$1.1b ÷ (US$5.3b - US$867m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to July 2019.)

Therefore, Brown-Forman has an ROCE of 25%.

View our latest analysis for Brown-Forman

Is Brown-Forman's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, we find that Brown-Forman's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 10% average in the Beverage industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Setting aside the comparison to its industry for a moment, Brown-Forman's ROCE in absolute terms currently looks quite high.

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

NYSE:BF.B Past Revenue and Net Income, October 27th 2019

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. 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 Brown-Forman.

Brown-Forman's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

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

Brown-Forman has total liabilities of US$867m and total assets of US$5.3b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 16% of its total assets. A minimal amount of current liabilities limits the impact on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Brown-Forman's ROCE

Low current liabilities and high ROCE is a good combination, making Brown-Forman look quite interesting. Brown-Forman 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).

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.