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Evaluating Select Energy Services, Inc.’s (NYSE:WTTR) Investments In Its Business

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll look at Select Energy Services, Inc. (NYSE:WTTR) and reflect on its potential as an investment. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 Select Energy Services:

0.077 = US$94m ÷ (US$1.4b - US$194m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Select Energy Services has an ROCE of 7.7%.

View our latest analysis for Select Energy Services

Is Select Energy Services's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Select Energy Services's ROCE appears to be around the 8.9% average of the Energy Services industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Select Energy Services's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Select Energy Services has an ROCE of 7.7%, but it didn't have an ROCE 3 years ago, since it was unprofitable. That suggests the business has returned to profitability. The image below shows how Select Energy Services's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:WTTR Past Revenue and Net Income, July 17th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. 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 only a point-in-time measure. Remember that most companies like Select Energy Services are cyclical businesses. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

How Select Energy Services's Current Liabilities Impact 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.

Select Energy Services has total liabilities of US$194m and total assets of US$1.4b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 14% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Select Energy Services's ROCE

If Select Energy Services continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

I will like Select Energy Services 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.