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Is Huon Aquaculture Group Limited (ASX:HUO) Investing Your Capital Efficiently?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Huon Aquaculture Group Limited (ASX:HUO) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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 Huon Aquaculture Group:

0.056 = AU$30m ÷ (AU$620m - AU$86m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Huon Aquaculture Group has an ROCE of 5.6%.

View our latest analysis for Huon Aquaculture Group

Is Huon Aquaculture Group's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Huon Aquaculture Group's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 10% average in the Food industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how Huon Aquaculture Group stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

Huon Aquaculture Group delivered an ROCE of 5.6%, which is better than 3 years ago, as was making losses back then. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can see in the image below how Huon Aquaculture Group's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

ASX:HUO Past Revenue and Net Income, August 11th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Huon Aquaculture Group.

How Huon Aquaculture Group's Current Liabilities Impact 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.

Huon Aquaculture Group has total liabilities of AU$86m and total assets of AU$620m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 14% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

Our Take On Huon Aquaculture Group's ROCE

That said, Huon Aquaculture Group's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.