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Should You Care About Safe Bulkers, Inc.’s (NYSE:SB) Investment Potential?

Simply Wall St

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Today we are going to look at Safe Bulkers, Inc. (NYSE:SB) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

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. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since 'No two businesses are exactly alike.'

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Safe Bulkers:

0.057 = US$57m ÷ (US$1.1b - US$57m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Safe Bulkers has an ROCE of 5.7%.

See our latest analysis for Safe Bulkers

Does Safe Bulkers Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see Safe Bulkers's ROCE is around the 4.8% average reported by the Shipping industry. Putting aside Safe Bulkers's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor - considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.

Safe Bulkers has an ROCE of 5.7%, but it didn't have an ROCE 3 years ago, since it was unprofitable. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can see in the image below how Safe Bulkers's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:SB Past Revenue and Net Income, July 15th 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Safe Bulkers.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Safe Bulkers's ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Safe Bulkers has total liabilities of US$57m and total assets of US$1.1b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 5.4% of its total assets. Safe Bulkers has a low level of current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its already low ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Safe Bulkers's ROCE

Nevertheless, there are potentially more attractive companies to invest in. 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).

I will like Safe Bulkers better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.