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Shareholders Should Look Hard At The Mosaic Company’s (NYSE:MOS) 6.0% Return On Capital

Simply Wall St

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Today we’ll evaluate The Mosaic Company (NYSE:MOS) 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. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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 Mosaic:

0.06 = US$1.1b ÷ (US$20b – US$2.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Mosaic has an ROCE of 6.0%.

View our latest analysis for Mosaic

Does Mosaic Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Mosaic’s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 12% average in the Chemicals industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Mosaic’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Mosaic’s current ROCE of 6.0% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 8.6% ROCE. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently.

NYSE:MOS Past Revenue and Net Income, March 25th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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.

Mosaic’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Mosaic has total assets of US$20b and current liabilities of US$2.5b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal 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.

Our Take On Mosaic’s ROCE

That said, Mosaic’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. You might be able to find a better buy than Mosaic. 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).

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.