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Are J.K. Cement Limited’s (NSE:JKCEMENT) High Returns Really That Great?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at J.K. Cement Limited (NSE:JKCEMENT) 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. 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 measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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 J.K. Cement:

0.13 = ₹7.3b ÷ (₹74b - ₹16b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, J.K. Cement has an ROCE of 13%.

View our latest analysis for J.K. Cement

Is J.K. Cement's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, we find that J.K. Cement's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 10.0% average in the Basic Materials industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Separate from how J.K. Cement stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Our data shows that J.K. Cement currently has an ROCE of 13%, compared to its ROCE of 8.2% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving. The image below shows how J.K. Cement's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NSEI:JKCEMENT Past Revenue and Net Income, September 2nd 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do J.K. Cement's Current Liabilities Skew 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. 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.

J.K. Cement has total assets of ₹74b and current liabilities of ₹16b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 22% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

The Bottom Line On J.K. Cement's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with J.K. Cement's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. 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).

I will like J.K. Cement 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.