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Is Colgate-Palmolive Company’s (NYSE:CL) 43% ROCE Any Good?

Ricardo Landis

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Today we’ll look at Colgate-Palmolive Company (NYSE:CL) 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 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.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested 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’.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Colgate-Palmolive:

0.43 = US$3.8b ÷ (US$12b – US$3.3b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Colgate-Palmolive has an ROCE of 43%.

View our latest analysis for Colgate-Palmolive

Does Colgate-Palmolive Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Colgate-Palmolive’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 14% average in the Household Products industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Colgate-Palmolive’s ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

NYSE:CL Past Revenue and Net Income, February 22nd 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Colgate-Palmolive.

Colgate-Palmolive’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. 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.

Colgate-Palmolive has total liabilities of US$3.3b and total assets of US$12b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 27% of its total assets. The fairly low level of current liabilities won’t have much impact on the already great ROCE.

Our Take On Colgate-Palmolive’s ROCE

With low current liabilities and a high ROCE, Colgate-Palmolive could be worthy of further investigation. You might be able to find a better buy than Colgate-Palmolive. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.