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A Close Look At Sealed Air Corporation’s (NYSE:SEE) 19% ROCE

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Sealed Air Corporation (NYSE:SEE) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since 'No two businesses are exactly alike.

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 Sealed Air:

0.19 = US$696m ÷ (US$5.2b - US$1.6b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Sealed Air has an ROCE of 19%.

Check out our latest analysis for Sealed Air

Does Sealed Air Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In our analysis, Sealed Air's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 9.7% average in the Packaging industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of where Sealed Air sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

In our analysis, Sealed Air's ROCE appears to be 19%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 13%. This makes us think the business might be improving. The image below shows how Sealed Air's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:SEE Past Revenue and Net Income, November 8th 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 misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Sealed Air.

Do Sealed Air's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Sealed Air has total assets of US$5.2b and current liabilities of US$1.6b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 30% of its total assets. Sealed Air has a middling amount of current liabilities, increasing its ROCE somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Sealed Air's ROCE

With a decent ROCE, the company could be interesting, but remember that the level of current liabilities make the ROCE look better. Sealed Air 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.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.