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How Good Is Mueller Water Products, Inc. (NYSE:MWA) At Creating Shareholder Value?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Mueller Water Products, Inc. (NYSE:MWA) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its 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. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

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

ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 Mueller Water Products:

0.11 = US$119m ÷ (US$1.3b - US$174m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Mueller Water Products has an ROCE of 11%.

Check out our latest analysis for Mueller Water Products

Is Mueller Water Products's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, Mueller Water Products's ROCE appears to be around the 11% average of the Machinery industry. Regardless of where Mueller Water Products sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

The image below shows how Mueller Water Products's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:MWA Past Revenue and Net Income, August 6th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Mueller Water Products.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Mueller Water Products's 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.

Mueller Water Products has total liabilities of US$174m and total assets of US$1.3b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 14% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From Mueller Water Products's ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Mueller Water Products could be worth a closer look. Mueller Water Products 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.

If you are like me, then you will 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.