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Is Devon Energy Corporation (NYSE:DVN) Creating Value For Shareholders?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Devon Energy Corporation (NYSE:DVN) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Devon Energy:

0.089 = US$1.6b ÷ (US$20b - US$2.2b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Devon Energy has an ROCE of 8.9%.

See our latest analysis for Devon Energy

Is Devon Energy's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Devon Energy's ROCE is around the 9.2% average reported by the Oil and Gas industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Devon Energy's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Devon Energy has an ROCE of 8.9%, but it didn't have an ROCE 3 years ago, since it was unprofitable. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NYSE:DVN Past Revenue and Net Income, April 19th 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. Given the industry it operates in, Devon Energy could be considered cyclical. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Devon Energy.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Devon Energy's ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

Devon Energy has total assets of US$20b and current liabilities of US$2.2b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 11% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Devon Energy's ROCE

That said, Devon Energy's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.