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What Can We Learn From American Electric Power Company, Inc.’s (NYSE:AEP) Investment Returns?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at American Electric Power Company, Inc. (NYSE:AEP) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 American Electric Power Company:

0.048 = US$2.9b ÷ (US$69b – US$8.6b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, American Electric Power Company has an ROCE of 4.8%.

Check out our latest analysis for American Electric Power Company

Does American Electric Power Company Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see American Electric Power Company’s ROCE is around the 4.8% average reported by the Electric Utilities industry. Regardless of how American Electric Power Company 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.

NYSE:AEP Past Revenue and Net Income, March 12th 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 American Electric Power Company.

How American Electric Power Company’s Current Liabilities Impact 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 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.

American Electric Power Company has total assets of US$69b and current liabilities of US$8.6b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 13% of its total assets. This is not a high level of current liabilities, which would not boost the ROCE by much.

Our Take On American Electric Power Company’s ROCE

While that is good to see, American Electric Power Company has a low ROCE and does not look attractive in this analysis. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.