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Does SBM Offshore N.V. (AMS:SBMO) Create Value For Shareholders?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at SBM Offshore N.V. (AMS:SBMO) 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

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 SBM Offshore:

0.078 = US$635m ÷ (US$9.8b - US$1.7b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, SBM Offshore has an ROCE of 7.8%.

View our latest analysis for SBM Offshore

Does SBM Offshore Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see SBM Offshore's ROCE is around the 7.3% average reported by the Energy Services industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, SBM Offshore'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.

Our data shows that SBM Offshore currently has an ROCE of 7.8%, compared to its ROCE of 5.6% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving. The image below shows how SBM Offshore's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

ENXTAM:SBMO Past Revenue and Net Income, October 27th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Given the industry it operates in, SBM Offshore could be considered cyclical. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for SBM Offshore.

How SBM Offshore'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.

SBM Offshore has total assets of US$9.8b and current liabilities of US$1.7b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 17% 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 SBM Offshore's ROCE

If SBM Offshore continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. 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 are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.