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Here's What The Hershey Company's (NYSE:HSY) ROCE Can Tell Us

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at The Hershey Company (NYSE:HSY) 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. 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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from 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 Hershey:

0.32 = US$1.8b ÷ (US$8.5b - US$3.0b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Hershey has an ROCE of 32%.

Check out our latest analysis for Hershey

Does Hershey Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In our analysis, Hershey's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 9.4% average in the Food 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. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Hershey's ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

You can see in the image below how Hershey's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:HSY Past Revenue and Net Income, January 1st 2020

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 only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Hershey.

Hershey'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. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Hershey has total assets of US$8.5b and current liabilities of US$3.0b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 35% of its total assets. Hershey's ROCE is boosted somewhat by its middling amount of current liabilities.

What We Can Learn From Hershey's ROCE

Still, it has a high ROCE, and may be an interesting prospect for further research. Hershey 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).

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.