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A Close Look At Starbucks Corporation’s (NASDAQ:SBUX) 26% ROCE

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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. 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?

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 Starbucks:

0.26 = US$3.7b ÷ (US$20b - US$5.4b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Starbucks has an ROCE of 26%.

See our latest analysis for Starbucks

Does Starbucks Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, we find that Starbucks's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 10% average in the Hospitality industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Putting aside its position relative to its industry for now, in absolute terms, Starbucks's ROCE is currently very good.

As we can see, Starbucks currently has an ROCE of 26%, less than the 41% it reported 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NasdaqGS:SBUX Past Revenue and Net Income, April 22nd 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during 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 Starbucks.

How Starbucks'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. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Starbucks has total assets of US$20b and current liabilities of US$5.4b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 27% of its total assets. A minimal amount of current liabilities limits the impact on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Starbucks's ROCE

This is good to see, and with such a high ROCE, Starbucks may be worth a closer look. Starbucks shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

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.