U.S. Markets close in 4 hrs 34 mins

Has Frontera Energy Corporation (TSE:FEC) Been Employing Capital Shrewdly?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Frontera Energy Corporation (TSE:FEC) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

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

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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Frontera Energy:

0.063 = US$126m ÷ (US$2.5b - US$526m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Frontera Energy has an ROCE of 6.3%.

See our latest analysis for Frontera Energy

Is Frontera Energy's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see Frontera Energy's ROCE is around the 5.6% average reported by the Oil and Gas industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Frontera Energy'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 click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Frontera Energy's past growth compares to other companies.

TSX:FEC Past Revenue and Net Income, November 1st 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. We note Frontera Energy could be considered a cyclical business. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Frontera Energy's ROCE?

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

Frontera Energy has total assets of US$2.5b and current liabilities of US$526m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 21% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Frontera Energy's ROCE

That said, Frontera Energy's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. You probably do 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.