U.S. Markets closed

Are G4S plc’s (LON:GFS) Returns Worth Your While?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate G4S plc (LON:GFS) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is 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. 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'.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 G4S:

0.10 = UK£417m ÷ (UK£5.9b - UK£1.9b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, G4S has an ROCE of 10%.

Check out our latest analysis for G4S

Does G4S Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see G4S's ROCE is around the 10% average reported by the Commercial Services industry. Independently of how G4S compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

You can see in the image below how G4S's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

LSE:GFS Past Revenue and Net Income, August 24th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for G4S.

G4S's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

G4S has total assets of UK£5.9b and current liabilities of UK£1.9b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 32% of its total assets. With this level of current liabilities, G4S's ROCE is boosted somewhat.

What We Can Learn From G4S's ROCE

G4S's ROCE does look good, but the level of current liabilities also contribute to that. G4S 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.

I will like G4S 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.