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Does 5N Plus Inc.’s (TSE:VNP) ROCE Reflect Well On The Business?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate 5N Plus Inc. (TSE:VNP) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 5N Plus:

0.067 = US$13m ÷ (US$235m - US$36m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, 5N Plus has an ROCE of 6.7%.

View our latest analysis for 5N Plus

Is 5N Plus's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, 5N Plus's ROCE appears to be around the 6.7% average of the Chemicals industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, 5N Plus's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

5N Plus has an ROCE of 6.7%, but it didn't have an ROCE 3 years ago, since it was unprofitable. That suggests the business has returned to profitability. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how 5N Plus's past growth compares to other companies.

TSX:VNP Past Revenue and Net Income, August 16th 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 deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect 5N Plus's 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.

5N Plus has total liabilities of US$36m and total assets of US$235m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 15% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

Our Take On 5N Plus's ROCE

That said, 5N Plus's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. You might be able to find a better investment than 5N Plus. 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.