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Are Lagardère SCA’s (EPA:MMB) Returns On Investment Worth Your While?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll evaluate Lagardère SCA (EPA:MMB) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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.'

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 Lagardère:

0.089 = €340m ÷ (€8.2b - €4.4b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Lagardère has an ROCE of 8.9%.

See our latest analysis for Lagardère

Is Lagardère's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Lagardère's ROCE appears to be around the 9.7% average of the Media industry. Independently of how Lagardère compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

Our data shows that Lagardère currently has an ROCE of 8.9%, compared to its ROCE of 6.5% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving. The image below shows how Lagardère's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

ENXTPA:MMB Past Revenue and Net Income, July 19th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. 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 Lagardère.

How Lagardère'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.

Lagardère has total assets of €8.2b and current liabilities of €4.4b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 53% of its total assets. This is admittedly a high level of current liabilities, improving ROCE substantially.

What We Can Learn From Lagardère's ROCE

The ROCE would not look as appealing if the company had fewer current liabilities. Lagardère looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

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.