U.S. Markets close in 22 mins

Are FMC Corporation’s (NYSE:FMC) High Returns Really That Great?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate FMC Corporation (NYSE:FMC) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. 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.

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. 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'.

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 FMC:

0.18 = US$1.2b ÷ (US$9.8b - US$3.2b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, FMC has an ROCE of 18%.

Check out our latest analysis for FMC

Does FMC Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, we find that FMC's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 10% average in the Chemicals industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of where FMC sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

Our data shows that FMC currently has an ROCE of 18%, compared to its ROCE of 8.4% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how FMC's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:FMC Past Revenue and Net Income, August 29th 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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for FMC.

FMC's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

FMC has total liabilities of US$3.2b and total assets of US$9.8b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 33% of its total assets. With this level of current liabilities, FMC's ROCE is boosted somewhat.

What We Can Learn From FMC's ROCE

FMC's ROCE does look good, but the level of current liabilities also contribute to that. FMC 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.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.