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Shareholders Should Look Hard At American Airlines Group Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAL) 8.8%Return On Capital

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate American Airlines Group Inc. (NASDAQ:AAL) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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'.

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 American Airlines Group:

0.088 = US$3.7b ÷ (US$62b - US$20b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, American Airlines Group has an ROCE of 8.8%.

View our latest analysis for American Airlines Group

Is American Airlines Group's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, American Airlines Group's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 12% average in the Airlines industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, American Airlines Group'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.

We can see that, American Airlines Group currently has an ROCE of 8.8%, less than the 19% it reported 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds. The image below shows how American Airlines Group's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGS:AAL Past Revenue and Net Income, October 17th 2019

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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for American Airlines Group.

Do American Airlines Group'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. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

American Airlines Group has total liabilities of US$20b and total assets of US$62b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 32% of its total assets. American Airlines Group's ROCE is improved somewhat by its moderate amount of current liabilities.

The Bottom Line On American Airlines Group's ROCE

With this level of liabilities and a mediocre ROCE, there are potentially better investments out there. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than American Airlines Group. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.