U.S. Markets open in 8 hrs 23 mins

Are Rexel S.A.’s (EPA:RXL) Returns Worth Your While?

Alvin Rowe

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

Today we’ll look at Rexel S.A. (EPA:RXL) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. 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.’

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 Rexel:

0.077 = €550m ÷ (€10b – €3.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, Rexel has an ROCE of 7.7%.

See our latest analysis for Rexel

Does Rexel Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Rexel’s ROCE is around the 7.7% average reported by the Trade Distributors industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Rexel’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.

ENXTPA:RXL Last Perf February 4th 19

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do Rexel’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Rexel has total assets of €10b and current liabilities of €3.1b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 30% of its total assets. Rexel’s ROCE is improved somewhat by its moderate amount of current liabilities.

What We Can Learn From Rexel’s ROCE

Despite this, its ROCE is still mediocre, and you may find more appealing investments elsewhere. But note: Rexel may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.