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How Do HeidelbergCement AG’s (ETR:HEI) Returns Compare To Its Industry?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at HeidelbergCement AG (ETR:HEI) 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.

First up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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 HeidelbergCement:

0.055 = €1.7b ÷ (€39b - €7.2b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, HeidelbergCement has an ROCE of 5.5%.

Check out our latest analysis for HeidelbergCement

Is HeidelbergCement's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, HeidelbergCement's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 9.0% average in the Basic Materials industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Separate from how HeidelbergCement stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

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

XTRA:HEI Past Revenue and Net Income, January 1st 2020

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 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.

HeidelbergCement's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

HeidelbergCement has total assets of €39b and current liabilities of €7.2b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 19% 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 HeidelbergCement's ROCE

That said, HeidelbergCement'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.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.