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What Can We Learn From Portland General Electric Company’s (NYSE:POR) Investment Returns?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Portland General Electric Company (NYSE:POR) 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. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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'.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Portland General Electric:

0.042 = US$314m ÷ (US$8.0b - US$440m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Portland General Electric has an ROCE of 4.2%.

Check out our latest analysis for Portland General Electric

Does Portland General Electric Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Portland General Electric's ROCE appears to be around the 4.9% average of the Electric Utilities industry. Independently of how Portland General Electric compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

The image below shows how Portland General Electric's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:POR Past Revenue and Net Income, September 4th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Portland General Electric.

Portland General Electric's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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.

Portland General Electric has total assets of US$8.0b and current liabilities of US$440m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 5.5% of its total assets. Portland General Electric has a low level of current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its already low ROCE.

Our Take On Portland General Electric's ROCE

Nonetheless, there may be better places to invest your capital. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Portland General Electric. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.