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Is Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) Investing Effectively In Its Business?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Halliburton Company (NYSE:HAL) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Halliburton:

0.10 = US$2.2b ÷ (US$27b - US$5.0b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Halliburton has an ROCE of 10%.

Check out our latest analysis for Halliburton

Does Halliburton Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. It appears that Halliburton's ROCE is fairly close to the Energy Services industry average of 9.8%. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Halliburton's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

In our analysis, Halliburton's ROCE appears to be 10%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 5.7%. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Halliburton's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:HAL Past Revenue and Net Income, September 19th 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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Given the industry it operates in, Halliburton could be considered cyclical. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Halliburton.

How Halliburton's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

Halliburton has total liabilities of US$5.0b and total assets of US$27b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 18% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Halliburton's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Halliburton's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. 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.