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Is Herbalife Nutrition Ltd.’s (NYSE:HLF) 47% ROCE Any Good?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Herbalife Nutrition Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

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

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. 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?

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 Herbalife Nutrition:

0.47 = US$684m ÷ (US$3.0b - US$1.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Herbalife Nutrition has an ROCE of 47%.

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Does Herbalife Nutrition Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, Herbalife Nutrition's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 22% average in the Personal Products industry. I think that's good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Setting aside the comparison to its industry for a moment, Herbalife Nutrition's ROCE in absolute terms currently looks quite high.

NYSE:HLF Past Revenue and Net Income, May 23rd 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Herbalife Nutrition.

How Herbalife Nutrition's Current Liabilities Impact 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Herbalife Nutrition has total assets of US$3.0b and current liabilities of US$1.5b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 51% of its total assets. Herbalife Nutrition's high level of current liabilities boost the ROCE - but its ROCE is still impressive.

The Bottom Line On Herbalife Nutrition's ROCE

So to us, the company is potentially worth investigating further. Herbalife Nutrition 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 like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.