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What Can We Make Of NIKE, Inc.’s (NYSE:NKE) High Return On Capital?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at NIKE, Inc. (NYSE:NKE) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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 is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its 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.

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 NIKE:

0.27 = US$5.0b ÷ (US$26b - US$8.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to August 2019.)

So, NIKE has an ROCE of 27%.

See our latest analysis for NIKE

Does NIKE Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In our analysis, NIKE's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 11% average in the Luxury industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, NIKE's ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

You can see in the image below how NIKE's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:NKE Past Revenue and Net Income, November 18th 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 NIKE.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect NIKE's ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

NIKE has total assets of US$26b and current liabilities of US$8.1b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 31% of its total assets. A medium level of current liabilities boosts NIKE's ROCE somewhat.

What We Can Learn From NIKE's ROCE

Despite this, it reports a high ROCE, and may be worth investigating further. There might be better investments than NIKE out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

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.