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A Close Look At Altria Group, Inc.’s (NYSE:MO) 20% ROCE

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Altria Group, Inc. (NYSE:MO) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. 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?

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 Altria Group:

0.20 = US$9.9b ÷ (US$59b - US$10b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Altria Group has an ROCE of 20%.

View our latest analysis for Altria Group

Is Altria Group's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Altria Group's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 15% average in the Tobacco industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Independently of how Altria Group compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

We can see that , Altria Group currently has an ROCE of 20%, less than the 35% it reported 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 Altria Group's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:MO 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 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 Altria Group.

How Altria Group's Current Liabilities Impact 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Altria Group has total liabilities of US$10b and total assets of US$59b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 17% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

Our Take On Altria Group's ROCE

With that in mind, Altria Group's ROCE appears pretty good. Altria Group looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

I will like Altria Group 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.