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Shareholders Should Look Hard At Worthington Industries, Inc.’s (NYSE:WOR) 6.1%Return On Capital

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Worthington Industries, Inc. (NYSE:WOR) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Worthington Industries:

0.061 = US$116m ÷ (US$2.4b - US$483m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to August 2019.)

Therefore, Worthington Industries has an ROCE of 6.1%.

Check out our latest analysis for Worthington Industries

Is Worthington Industries's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Worthington Industries's ROCE is meaningfully below the Metals and Mining industry average of 8.9%. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Worthington Industries'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.

Worthington Industries's current ROCE of 6.1% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 11% ROCE. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently. You can see in the image below how Worthington Industries's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:WOR Past Revenue and Net Income, October 15th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Given the industry it operates in, Worthington Industries could be considered cyclical. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Worthington Industries.

How Worthington Industries's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Worthington Industries has total assets of US$2.4b and current liabilities of US$483m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 20% 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 Worthington Industries's ROCE

If Worthington Industries continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. You might be able to find a better investment than Worthington Industries. 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.