U.S. Markets closed

What Does Cosan Limited’s (NYSE:CZZ) 7.4% ROCE Say About The Business?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Cosan Limited (NYSE:CZZ) 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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 Cosan:

0.074 = R$4.1b ÷ (R$64b - R$8.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Cosan has an ROCE of 7.4%.

Check out our latest analysis for Cosan

Does Cosan Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Cosan's ROCE is around the 8.9% average reported by the Oil and Gas industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Cosan's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

In our analysis, Cosan's ROCE appears to be 7.4%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 5.8%. This makes us think the business might be improving. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Cosan's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:CZZ Past Revenue and Net Income, December 8th 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 misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. We note Cosan could be considered a cyclical business. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Cosan.

Cosan's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that 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.

Cosan has total assets of R$64b and current liabilities of R$8.5b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 13% 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 Cosan's ROCE

If Cosan continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. You might be able to find a better investment than Cosan. 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 are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.