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Is Shake Shack Inc. (NYSE:SHAK) Investing Your Capital Efficiently?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll evaluate Shake Shack Inc. (NYSE:SHAK) 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. 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.

Understanding 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. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Shake Shack:

0.062 = US$34m ÷ (US$611m - US$60m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Shake Shack has an ROCE of 6.2%.

View our latest analysis for Shake Shack

Is Shake Shack's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see Shake Shack's ROCE is meaningfully below the Hospitality industry average of 9.9%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Separate from how Shake Shack stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

NYSE:SHAK Past Revenue and Net Income, May 5th 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. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Shake Shack.

Do Shake Shack'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.

Shake Shack has total assets of US$611m and current liabilities of US$60m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 9.8% of its total assets. Shake Shack has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Shake Shack's ROCE

Shake Shack looks like an ok business, but on this analysis it is not at the top of our buy list. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.