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Nucor Corporation (NYSE:NUE) Earns A Nice Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Nucor Corporation (NYSE:NUE) 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. 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.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed 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.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Nucor:

0.16 = US$2.6b ÷ (US$19b - US$2.6b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

Therefore, Nucor has an ROCE of 16%.

Check out our latest analysis for Nucor

Does Nucor Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, we find that Nucor's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 9.2% average in the Metals and Mining industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Independently of how Nucor compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

We can see that, Nucor currently has an ROCE of 16% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 7.3%. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly. The image below shows how Nucor's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:NUE Past Revenue and Net Income, December 19th 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. We note Nucor could be considered a cyclical business. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do Nucor's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Nucor has total assets of US$19b and current liabilities of US$2.6b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 14% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

Our Take On Nucor's ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Nucor could be worth a closer look. There might be better investments than Nucor 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.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.