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Chorus Limited’s (NZSE:CNU) Investment Returns Are Lagging Its Industry

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Chorus Limited (NZSE:CNU) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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.

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 Chorus:

0.049 = NZ$255m ÷ (NZ$6.2b - NZ$1.0b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

So, Chorus has an ROCE of 4.9%.

Check out our latest analysis for Chorus

Does Chorus Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Chorus's ROCE is meaningfully below the Telecom industry average of 9.5%. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Putting aside Chorus's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor - considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

Chorus's current ROCE of 4.9% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 8.4%, 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Chorus's past growth compares to other companies.

NZSE:CNU Past Revenue and Net Income May 20th 2020

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 only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Chorus.

Chorus'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.

Chorus has total assets of NZ$6.2b and current liabilities of NZ$1.0b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 17% of its total assets. This is not a high level of current liabilities, which would not boost the ROCE by much.

The Bottom Line On Chorus's ROCE

While that is good to see, Chorus has a low ROCE and does not look attractive in this analysis. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.