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Enerplus Corporation (TSE:ERF) Earns Among The Best Returns In Its Industry

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Enerplus Corporation (TSE:ERF) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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. 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 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. 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?

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 Enerplus:

0.22 = CA$563m ÷ (CA$3.1b - CA$475m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Enerplus has an ROCE of 22%.

See our latest analysis for Enerplus

Is Enerplus's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In our analysis, Enerplus's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 5.6% average in the Oil and Gas industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Enerplus's ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

Enerplus reported an ROCE of 22% -- better than 3 years ago, when the company didn't make a profit. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can see in the image below how Enerplus's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

TSX:ERF Past Revenue and Net Income, October 15th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Remember that most companies like Enerplus are cyclical businesses. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Enerplus.

Do Enerplus's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. Due to the way ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Enerplus has total liabilities of CA$475m and total assets of CA$3.1b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 15% of its total assets. This is quite a low level of current liabilities which would not greatly boost the already high ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Enerplus's ROCE

With low current liabilities and a high ROCE, Enerplus could be worthy of further investigation. Enerplus shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. You probably do 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.