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Are GNC Holdings, Inc.’s Returns On Capital Worth Investigating?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll look at GNC Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:GNC) and reflect on its potential as an investment. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, 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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

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. 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.'

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 GNC Holdings:

0.12 = US$160m ÷ (US$1.8b - US$400m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, GNC Holdings has an ROCE of 12%.

Check out our latest analysis for GNC Holdings

Is GNC Holdings's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see GNC Holdings's ROCE is around the 13% average reported by the Specialty Retail industry. Independently of how GNC Holdings compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

GNC Holdings's current ROCE of 12% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 19%, 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NYSE:GNC Past Revenue and Net Income, May 14th 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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for GNC Holdings.

GNC Holdings's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

GNC Holdings has total assets of US$1.8b and current liabilities of US$400m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 23% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

Our Take On GNC Holdings's ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, GNC Holdings could be worth a closer look. There might be better investments than GNC Holdings 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 GNC Holdings 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.