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Should You Care About Centene Corporation’s (NYSE:CNC) Investment Potential?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Centene Corporation (NYSE:CNC) 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.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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. 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?

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 Centene:

0.12 = US$2.6b ÷ (US$34b - US$13b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, Centene has an ROCE of 12%.

Check out our latest analysis for Centene

Does Centene Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see Centene's ROCE is around the 11% average reported by the Healthcare industry. Separate from Centene'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 Centene's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:CNC Past Revenue and Net Income, December 2nd 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately 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 Centene.

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

Centene has total assets of US$34b and current liabilities of US$13b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 39% of its total assets. Centene has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost the ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Centene's ROCE

Centene's ROCE does look good, but the level of current liabilities also contribute to that. Centene looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.