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Has Bunge Limited (NYSE:BG) Been Employing Capital Shrewdly?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Bunge Limited (NYSE:BG) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Bunge:

0.08 = US$1.0b ÷ (US$20b - US$7.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Bunge has an ROCE of 8.0%.

Check out our latest analysis for Bunge

Is Bunge's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. It appears that Bunge's ROCE is fairly close to the Food industry average of 8.2%. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Bunge's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

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

NYSE:BG Past Revenue and Net Income, September 23rd 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Bunge.

Bunge's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Bunge has total assets of US$20b and current liabilities of US$7.5b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 37% of its total assets. Bunge's middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

The Bottom Line On Bunge's ROCE

With this level of liabilities and a mediocre ROCE, there are potentially better investments out there. 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.

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.