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Should Casella Waste Systems, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:CWST) Weak Investment Returns Worry You?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Casella Waste Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CWST) 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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?

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 Casella Waste Systems:

0.068 = US$55m ÷ (US$936m - US$127m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Casella Waste Systems has an ROCE of 6.8%.

See our latest analysis for Casella Waste Systems

Is Casella Waste Systems's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Casella Waste Systems's ROCE is meaningfully below the Commercial Services industry average of 9.4%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Casella Waste Systems'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 Casella Waste Systems's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGS:CWST Past Revenue and Net Income, December 10th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

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

Casella Waste Systems has total assets of US$936m and current liabilities of US$127m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 14% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Casella Waste Systems's ROCE

If Casella Waste Systems continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Casella Waste Systems. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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