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What Can We Make Of GeoPark Limited’s (NYSE:GPRK) High Return On Capital?

Lawrence Carr

Today we’ll look at GeoPark Limited (NYSE:GPRK) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

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?

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 GeoPark:

0.28 = US$76m ÷ (US$867m – US$188m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, GeoPark has an ROCE of 28%.

View our latest analysis for GeoPark

Does GeoPark Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, we find that GeoPark’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 5.6% average in the Oil and Gas industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Setting aside the comparison to its industry for a moment, GeoPark’s ROCE in absolute terms currently looks quite high.

GeoPark has an ROCE of 28%, but it didn’t have an ROCE 3 years ago, since it was unprofitable. That implies the business has been improving.

NYSE:GPRK Last Perf January 25th 19

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Given the industry it operates in, GeoPark could be considered cyclical. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for GeoPark.

How GeoPark’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. 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.

GeoPark has total assets of US$867m and current liabilities of US$188m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 22% of its total assets. This is quite a low level of current liabilities which would not greatly boost the already high ROCE.

The Bottom Line On GeoPark’s ROCE

With low current liabilities and a high ROCE, GeoPark could be worthy of further investigation. But note: GeoPark may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.