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Has Freightways Limited (NZSE:FRE) Been Employing Capital Shrewdly?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Freightways Limited (NZSE:FRE) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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 measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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?

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 Freightways:

0.19 = NZ$95m ÷ (NZ$585m - NZ$93m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Freightways has an ROCE of 19%.

Check out our latest analysis for Freightways

Is Freightways's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Freightways's ROCE appears to be around the 18% average of the Logistics industry. Regardless of where Freightways sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

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

NZSE:FRE Past Revenue and Net Income, October 13th 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. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do Freightways's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Freightways has total liabilities of NZ$93m and total assets of NZ$585m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 16% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

Our Take On Freightways's ROCE

Overall, Freightways has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. There might be better investments than Freightways out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

I will like Freightways 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.