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Is There More To Ucar SA (EPA:ALUCR) Than Its 5.0% Returns On Capital?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Ucar SA (EPA:ALUCR) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Ucar:

0.05 = €1.1m ÷ (€45m - €24m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Ucar has an ROCE of 5.0%.

Check out our latest analysis for Ucar

Is Ucar's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Ucar's ROCE appears to be around the 5.0% average of the Transportation industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Ucar's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

We can see that, Ucar currently has an ROCE of 5.0%, less than the 7.2% it reported 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. You can see in the image below how Ucar's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

ENXTPA:ALUCR Past Revenue and Net Income, December 4th 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. 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 Ucar.

Do Ucar's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

Ucar has total liabilities of €24m and total assets of €45m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 53% of its total assets. With a high level of current liabilities, Ucar will experience a boost to its ROCE.

Our Take On Ucar's ROCE

Notably, it also has a mediocre ROCE, which to my mind is not an appealing combination. 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.

I will like Ucar better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.