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Has Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL) Been Employing Capital Shrewdly?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Carnival Corporation (NYSE:CCL) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is 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'.

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 Carnival:

0.095 = US$3.2b ÷ (US$45b - US$10b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to May 2019.)

So, Carnival has an ROCE of 9.5%.

Check out our latest analysis for Carnival

Does Carnival Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, Carnival's ROCE appears to be around the 9.3% average of the Hospitality industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Carnival'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 click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Carnival's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:CCL Past Revenue and Net Income, July 28th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Carnival.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Carnival's 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 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.

Carnival has total liabilities of US$10b and total assets of US$45b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 23% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Carnival's ROCE

If Carnival continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. You might be able to find a better investment than Carnival. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

I will like Carnival 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.