Today we'll evaluate Consolidated Water Co. Ltd. (NASDAQ:CWCO) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.
First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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.'
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 Consolidated Water:
0.053 = US$9.1m ÷ (US$181m - US$8.3m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)
So, Consolidated Water has an ROCE of 5.3%.
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Is Consolidated Water's ROCE Good?
One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Consolidated Water's ROCE appears to be around the 4.9% average of the Water Utilities industry. Independently of how Consolidated Water compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.
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. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.
How Consolidated Water's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE
Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. 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.
Consolidated Water has total assets of US$181m and current liabilities of US$8.3m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 4.6% of its total assets. With barely any current liabilities, there is minimal impact on Consolidated Water's admittedly low ROCE.
Our Take On Consolidated Water's ROCE
Nevertheless, there are potentially more attractive companies to invest in. You might be able to find a better investment than Consolidated Water. 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).
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.