U.S. Markets closed

Are John Menzies plc’s (LON:MNZS) Returns Worth Your While?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate John Menzies plc (LON:MNZS) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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?

The formula for calculating the return on capital employed is:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)

Or for John Menzies:

0.07 = UK£36m ÷ (UK£911m - UK£392m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, John Menzies has an ROCE of 7.0%.

View our latest analysis for John Menzies

Is John Menzies's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that John Menzies's ROCE is fairly close to the Infrastructure industry average of 6.8%. Separate from how John Menzies 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.

We can see that, John Menzies currently has an ROCE of 7.0%, less than the 13% it reported 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. The image below shows how John Menzies's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

LSE:MNZS Past Revenue and Net Income, December 4th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. 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.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect John Menzies's 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

John Menzies has total assets of UK£911m and current liabilities of UK£392m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 43% of its total assets. John Menzies's middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

The Bottom Line On John Menzies's ROCE

Despite this, its ROCE is still mediocre, and you may find more appealing investments elsewhere. 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).

John Menzies 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.

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.