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Here's What Colgate-Palmolive Company's (NYSE:CL) ROCE Can Tell Us

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Colgate-Palmolive Company (NYSE:CL) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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?

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 Colgate-Palmolive:

0.38 = US$3.6b ÷ (US$13b - US$3.8b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Colgate-Palmolive has an ROCE of 38%.

Check out our latest analysis for Colgate-Palmolive

Is Colgate-Palmolive's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Colgate-Palmolive's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 13% average in the Household Products industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Colgate-Palmolive's ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

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

NYSE:CL Past Revenue and Net Income, September 10th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Colgate-Palmolive.

Do Colgate-Palmolive'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 ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Colgate-Palmolive has total assets of US$13b and current liabilities of US$3.8b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 29% of its total assets. This is quite a low level of current liabilities which would not greatly boost the already high ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Colgate-Palmolive's ROCE

This is good to see, and with such a high ROCE, Colgate-Palmolive may be worth a closer look. Colgate-Palmolive 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.

I will like Colgate-Palmolive better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.