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What Does Martin Marietta Materials, Inc.’s (NYSE:MLM) 8.1% ROCE Say About The Business?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. (NYSE:MLM) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

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 measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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 Martin Marietta Materials:

0.081 = US$752m ÷ (US$10b - US$822m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Martin Marietta Materials has an ROCE of 8.1%.

Check out our latest analysis for Martin Marietta Materials

Does Martin Marietta Materials Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. It appears that Martin Marietta Materials's ROCE is fairly close to the Basic Materials industry average of 8.9%. Separate from how Martin Marietta Materials stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

The image below shows how Martin Marietta Materials's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:MLM Past Revenue and Net Income, September 11th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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.

Martin Marietta Materials'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. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Martin Marietta Materials has total assets of US$10b and current liabilities of US$822m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 8.1% of its total assets. Martin Marietta Materials has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

Our Take On Martin Marietta Materials's ROCE

Based on this information, Martin Marietta Materials appears to be a mediocre business. 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.

I will like Martin Marietta Materials better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.