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Shareholders Should Look Hard At Olin Corporation’s (NYSE:OLN) 7.9% Return On Capital

Today we’ll evaluate Olin Corporation (NYSE:OLN) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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. 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.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

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. 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.’

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Olin:

0.079 = US\$433m ÷ (US\$9.2b – US\$1.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, Olin has an ROCE of 7.9%.

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Does Olin Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Olin’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, Olin’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

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

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Olin’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.

Olin has total liabilities of US\$1.1b and total assets of US\$9.2b. 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 Olin’s ROCE

If Olin continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. You might be able to find a better buy than Olin. 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).

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

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.