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Intrepid Potash, Inc. (NYSE:IPI) Might Not Be A Great Investment

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Intrepid Potash, Inc. (NYSE:IPI) 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. 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 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. 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 Intrepid Potash:

0.055 = US$27m ÷ (US$568m - US$79m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Intrepid Potash has an ROCE of 5.5%.

See our latest analysis for Intrepid Potash

Is Intrepid Potash's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Intrepid Potash's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 10% average in the Chemicals industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Regardless of how Intrepid Potash stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is quite low (especially compared to a bank account). There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.

Intrepid Potash reported an ROCE of 5.5% -- better than 3 years ago, when the company didn't make a profit. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Intrepid Potash's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:IPI Past Revenue and Net Income, September 30th 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Intrepid Potash.

Do Intrepid Potash's Current Liabilities Skew 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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Intrepid Potash has total liabilities of US$79m and total assets of US$568m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 14% of its total assets. With a very reasonable level of current liabilities, so the impact on ROCE is fairly minimal.

What We Can Learn From Intrepid Potash's ROCE

While that is good to see, Intrepid Potash has a low ROCE and does not look attractive in this analysis. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Intrepid Potash. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

Intrepid Potash is not the only stock that insiders are buying. 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.