U.S. markets closed

Is Republic Services, Inc.’s (NYSE:RSG) Return On Capital Employed Any Good?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Republic Services, Inc. (NYSE:RSG) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the 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. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

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

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. 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?

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 Republic Services:

0.091 = US$1.8b ÷ (US$23b - US$3.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

Therefore, Republic Services has an ROCE of 9.1%.

See our latest analysis for Republic Services

Does Republic Services Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Republic Services's ROCE is around the 9.4% average reported by the Commercial Services industry. Separate from how Republic Services stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

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

NYSE:RSG Past Revenue and Net Income April 21st 2020

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, 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 Republic Services.

Republic Services's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Republic Services has current liabilities of US$3.1b and total assets of US$23b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 14% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Republic Services's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Republic Services's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. You might be able to find a better investment than Republic Services. 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.