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Should You Care About Severn Trent Plc’s (LON:SVT) Investment Potential?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Severn Trent Plc (LON:SVT) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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. 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 is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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'.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Severn Trent:

0.059 = UK£559m ÷ (UK£10b - UK£735m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Severn Trent has an ROCE of 5.9%.

View our latest analysis for Severn Trent

Does Severn Trent Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Severn Trent's ROCE appears to be around the 5.7% average of the Water Utilities industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Severn Trent's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

You can see in the image below how Severn Trent's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

LSE:SVT Past Revenue and Net Income, August 28th 2019

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

How Severn Trent's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Severn Trent has total liabilities of UK£735m and total assets of UK£10b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 7.2% of its total assets. Severn Trent has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

Our Take On Severn Trent's ROCE

Severn Trent looks like an ok business, but on this analysis it is not at the top of our buy list. 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 Severn Trent 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.