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Is Fiesta Restaurant Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:FRGI) Struggling With Its 6.8% Return On Capital Employed?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Fiesta Restaurant Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:FRGI) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

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

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. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since 'No two businesses are exactly alike.'

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 Fiesta Restaurant Group:

0.068 = US$25m ÷ (US$419m - US$47m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Fiesta Restaurant Group has an ROCE of 6.8%.

View our latest analysis for Fiesta Restaurant Group

Is Fiesta Restaurant Group's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In this analysis, Fiesta Restaurant Group's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 10% average reported by the Hospitality industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how Fiesta Restaurant Group stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

As we can see, Fiesta Restaurant Group currently has an ROCE of 6.8%, less than the 18% it reported 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NasdaqGS:FRGI Past Revenue and Net Income, April 25th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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 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 Fiesta Restaurant Group.

Do Fiesta Restaurant 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 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Fiesta Restaurant Group has total liabilities of US$47m and total assets of US$419m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 11% 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 Fiesta Restaurant Group's ROCE

If Fiesta Restaurant Group continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. You might be able to find a better investment than Fiesta Restaurant 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).

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.