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Here's What Sydney Airport Limited's (ASX:SYD) ROCE Can Tell Us

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Sydney Airport Limited (ASX:SYD) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

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. Renowned investment researcher Michael Mauboussin has suggested that a high ROCE can indicate that 'one dollar invested in the company generates value of more than one dollar'.

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 Sydney Airport:

0.075 = AU$883m ÷ (AU$13b - AU$841m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Sydney Airport has an ROCE of 7.5%.

View our latest analysis for Sydney Airport

Does Sydney Airport Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In our analysis, Sydney Airport's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 3.4% average in the Infrastructure industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Aside from the industry comparison, Sydney Airport's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

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

ASX:SYD Past Revenue and Net Income, August 25th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. 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 Sydney Airport.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Sydney Airport's ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

Sydney Airport has total assets of AU$13b and current liabilities of AU$841m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 6.7% of its total assets. Sydney Airport reports few current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its unremarkable ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Sydney Airport's ROCE

Sydney Airport looks like an ok business, but on this analysis it is not at the top of our buy list. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Sydney Airport. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.