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Levi Strauss & Co. (NYSE:LEVI) Earns A Nice Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Levi Strauss & Co. (NYSE:LEVI) 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. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

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. 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'.

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 Levi Strauss:

0.19 = US$542m ÷ (US$3.9b - US$1.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to May 2019.)

Therefore, Levi Strauss has an ROCE of 19%.

See our latest analysis for Levi Strauss

Is Levi Strauss's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Levi Strauss's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 12% average in the Luxury 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. Regardless of where Levi Strauss sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Levi Strauss's past growth compares to other companies.

NYSE:LEVI Past Revenue and Net Income, September 20th 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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Levi Strauss's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Levi Strauss has total liabilities of US$1.1b and total assets of US$3.9b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 28% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

Our Take On Levi Strauss's ROCE

With that in mind, Levi Strauss's ROCE appears pretty good. Levi Strauss shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

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.