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Are Spirit Airlines, Inc.’s (NYSE:SAVE) Returns Worth Your While?

Arjun Bhatia

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Today we are going to look at Spirit Airlines, Inc. (NYSE:SAVE) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

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

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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?

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 Spirit Airlines:

0.10 = US$449m ÷ (US$5.2b – US$835m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Spirit Airlines has an ROCE of 10%.

View our latest analysis for Spirit Airlines

Is Spirit Airlines’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. It appears that Spirit Airlines’s ROCE is fairly close to the Airlines industry average of 11%. Aside from the industry comparison, Spirit Airlines’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.

Spirit Airlines’s current ROCE of 10% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 25% ROCE. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

NYSE:SAVE Past Revenue and Net Income, February 20th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately 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. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Spirit Airlines.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Spirit Airlines’s 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Spirit Airlines has total liabilities of US$835m and total assets of US$5.2b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 16% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Spirit Airlines’s ROCE

With that in mind, we’re not overly impressed with Spirit Airlines’s ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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

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.