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Is Lancaster Colony Corporation’s (NASDAQ:LANC) 24% ROCE Any Good?

Simply Wall St

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Today we are going to look at Lancaster Colony Corporation (NASDAQ:LANC) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

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

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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Lancaster Colony:

0.24 = US$183m ÷ (US$875m - US$110m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Lancaster Colony has an ROCE of 24%.

View our latest analysis for Lancaster Colony

Does Lancaster Colony Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Lancaster Colony's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 8.9% average in the Food industry. I think that's good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Putting aside its position relative to its industry for now, in absolute terms, Lancaster Colony's ROCE is currently very good.

NasdaqGS:LANC Past Revenue and Net Income, April 8th 2019
NasdaqGS:LANC Past Revenue and Net Income, April 8th 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 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Lancaster Colony.

How Lancaster Colony'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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Lancaster Colony has total liabilities of US$110m and total assets of US$875m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 13% of its total assets. This is quite a low level of current liabilities which would not greatly boost the already high ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Lancaster Colony's ROCE

With low current liabilities and a high ROCE, Lancaster Colony could be worthy of further investigation. You might be able to find a better buy than Lancaster Colony. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.