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How Good Is Kronos Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:KRO) At Creating Shareholder Value?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Kronos Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:KRO) 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. 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 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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?

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 Kronos Worldwide:

0.10 = US$178m ÷ (US$2.0b - US$249m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Kronos Worldwide has an ROCE of 10%.

View our latest analysis for Kronos Worldwide

Does Kronos Worldwide Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that Kronos Worldwide's ROCE is fairly close to the Chemicals industry average of 10%. Aside from the industry comparison, Kronos Worldwide's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Kronos Worldwide reported an ROCE of 10% -- better than 3 years ago, when the company didn't make a profit. That suggests the business has returned to profitability. The image below shows how Kronos Worldwide's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:KRO Past Revenue and Net Income, November 4th 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 Kronos Worldwide's Current Liabilities Skew 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 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Kronos Worldwide has total liabilities of US$249m and total assets of US$2.0b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 13% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Kronos Worldwide's ROCE

That said, Kronos Worldwide'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.