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Is Seven Group Holdings Limited's (ASX:SVW) Capital Allocation Ability Worth Your Time?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Seven Group Holdings Limited (ASX:SVW) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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 of all, we'll work out how to 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.

What is 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. 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.

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 Seven Group Holdings:

0.072 = AU$442m ÷ (AU$6.9b - AU$817m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

So, Seven Group Holdings has an ROCE of 7.2%.

View our latest analysis for Seven Group Holdings

Is Seven Group Holdings's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that Seven Group Holdings's ROCE is fairly close to the Trade Distributors industry average of 7.2%. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Seven Group Holdings'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.

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

ASX:SVW Past Revenue and Net Income, February 28th 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do Seven Group Holdings's Current Liabilities Skew 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. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Seven Group Holdings has current liabilities of AU$817m and total assets of AU$6.9b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 12% 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 Seven Group Holdings's ROCE

That said, Seven Group Holdings's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Seven Group Holdings. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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

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.