U.S. Markets close in 5 hrs 46 mins

Here's What Vistra Energy Corp.'s (NYSE:VST) ROCE Can Tell Us

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Vistra Energy Corp. (NYSE:VST) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we'll compare its ROCE 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 is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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 Vistra Energy:

0.091 = US$2.0b ÷ (US$27b - US$4.6b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2020.)

So, Vistra Energy has an ROCE of 9.1%.

View our latest analysis for Vistra Energy

Is Vistra Energy's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, we find that Vistra Energy's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 7.1% average in the Renewable Energy 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. Aside from the industry comparison, Vistra Energy's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Our data shows that Vistra Energy currently has an ROCE of 9.1%, compared to its ROCE of 3.8% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Vistra Energy's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:VST Past Revenue and Net Income May 15th 2020

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. 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 Vistra Energy.

How Vistra Energy'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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Vistra Energy has current liabilities of US$4.6b and total assets of US$27b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 17% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

Our Take On Vistra Energy's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Vistra Energy's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. You probably do not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.