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Has MRC Global Inc. (NYSE:MRC) Been Employing Capital Shrewdly?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at MRC Global Inc. (NYSE:MRC) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Understanding 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 MRC Global:

0.075 = US$145m ÷ (US$2.5b - US$562m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, MRC Global has an ROCE of 7.5%.

View our latest analysis for MRC Global

Is MRC Global's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, MRC Global's ROCE appears to be around the 9.0% average of the Trade Distributors industry. Aside from the industry comparison, MRC Global'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.

MRC Global reported an ROCE of 7.5% -- better than 3 years ago, when the company didn't make a profit. That suggests the business has returned to profitability. You can see in the image below how MRC Global's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:MRC Past Revenue and Net Income, December 9th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for MRC Global.

Do MRC Global'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 the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

MRC Global has total assets of US$2.5b and current liabilities of US$562m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 22% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

Our Take On MRC Global's ROCE

If MRC Global continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. You might be able to find a better investment than MRC Global. 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 like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.