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Shareholders Should Look Hard At Singapore Airlines Limited’s (SGX:C6L) 3.2% Return On Capital

Neil Montgomery

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Today we’ll evaluate Singapore Airlines Limited (SGX:C6L) 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. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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’.

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 Singapore Airlines:

0.032 = S$1.0b ÷ (S$29b – S$6.8b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, Singapore Airlines has an ROCE of 3.2%.

See our latest analysis for Singapore Airlines

Does Singapore Airlines Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see Singapore Airlines’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Airlines industry average of 12%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Putting aside Singapore Airlines’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor – considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.

SGX:C6L Last Perf February 13th 19

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during 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 Singapore Airlines.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Singapore Airlines’s 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.

Singapore Airlines has total assets of S$29b and current liabilities of S$6.8b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 24% of its total assets. With a very reasonable level of current liabilities, so the impact on ROCE is fairly minimal.

What We Can Learn From Singapore Airlines’s ROCE

That’s not a bad thing, however Singapore Airlines has a weak ROCE and may not be an attractive investment. But note: Singapore Airlines may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.