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Flowers Foods, Inc. (NYSE:FLO) Earns Among The Best Returns In Its Industry

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Flowers Foods, Inc. (NYSE:FLO) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 Flowers Foods:

0.10 = US$274m ÷ (US$3.2b - US$495m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to April 2019.)

Therefore, Flowers Foods has an ROCE of 10.0%.

View our latest analysis for Flowers Foods

Is Flowers Foods's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In our analysis, Flowers Foods's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 8.2% average in the Food industry. I think that's good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Flowers Foods'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.

You can see in the image below how Flowers Foods's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:FLO Past Revenue and Net Income, July 23rd 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Flowers Foods.

How Flowers Foods's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

Flowers Foods has total liabilities of US$495m and total assets of US$3.2b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 15% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Flowers Foods's ROCE

That said, Flowers Foods's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. 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).

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.