U.S. Markets closed

SEMAFO Inc. (TSE:SMF) Is Employing Capital Very Effectively

Simply Wall St

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 are going to look at SEMAFO Inc. (TSE:SMF) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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?

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 SEMAFO:

0.062 = US$58m ÷ (US$1.1b - US$140m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, SEMAFO has an ROCE of 6.2%.

View our latest analysis for SEMAFO

Is SEMAFO's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, we find that SEMAFO's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 2.7% 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. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, SEMAFO's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

As we can see, SEMAFO currently has an ROCE of 6.2%, less than the 9.8% it reported 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

TSX:SMF Past Revenue and Net Income, May 13th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Remember that most companies like SEMAFO are cyclical businesses. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for SEMAFO.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect SEMAFO's 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 ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

SEMAFO has total assets of US$1.1b and current liabilities of US$140m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 13% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On SEMAFO's ROCE

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

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

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.