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Evaluating Mesa Air Group, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:MESA) Investments In Its Business

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Mesa Air Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:MESA) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. 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 amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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'.

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 Mesa Air Group:

0.10 = US$123m ÷ (US$1.4b - US$231m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Mesa Air Group has an ROCE of 10%.

See our latest analysis for Mesa Air Group

Is Mesa Air Group's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that Mesa Air Group's ROCE is fairly close to the Airlines industry average of 11%. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Mesa Air Group's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

NasdaqGS:MESA Past Revenue and Net Income, April 26th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Mesa Air Group.

Do Mesa Air Group's Current Liabilities Skew 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Mesa Air Group has total liabilities of US$231m and total assets of US$1.4b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 16% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Mesa Air Group's ROCE

That said, Mesa Air Group's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. You might be able to find a better investment than Mesa Air Group. 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).

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.