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Does Portland General Electric Company (NYSE:POR) Create Value For Shareholders?

Liliana Gabriel

Today we’ll look at Portland General Electric Company (NYSE:POR) and reflect on its potential as an investment. To be precise, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

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

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. 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 Portland General Electric:

0.052 = US$376m ÷ (US$8.0b – US$703m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, Portland General Electric has an ROCE of 5.2%.

See our latest analysis for Portland General Electric

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Does Portland General Electric Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Portland General Electric’s ROCE is around the 5.0% average reported by the Electric Utilities industry. Independently of how Portland General Electric compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

NYSE:POR Last Perf January 30th 19

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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 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 Portland General Electric’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Portland General Electric has total assets of US$8.0b and current liabilities of US$703m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 8.8% of its total assets. Portland General Electric has a low level of current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its already low ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Portland General Electric’s ROCE

Nonetheless, there may be better places to invest your capital. You might be able to find a better buy than Portland General Electric. 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.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.