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Here's What Livent Corporation's (NYSE:LTHM) ROCE Can Tell Us

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Livent Corporation (NYSE:LTHM) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

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

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 Livent:

0.16 = US$104m ÷ (US$757m - US$90m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Livent has an ROCE of 16%.

See our latest analysis for Livent

Is Livent's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Livent's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 10% average in the Chemicals industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Independently of how Livent compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

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

NYSE:LTHM Past Revenue and Net Income, November 12th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Livent.

How Livent's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Livent has total liabilities of US$90m and total assets of US$757m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 12% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From Livent's ROCE

With that in mind, Livent's ROCE appears pretty good. Livent 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 Livent 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.