U.S. Markets close in 1 hr 40 mins

SSP Group plc (LON:SSPG) Is Employing Capital Very Effectively

Rowena Gregory

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

Today we’ll look at SSP Group plc (LON:SSPG) 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.

First, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a measure of a company’s yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the 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.’

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 SSP Group:

0.20 = UK£193m ÷ (UK£1.6b – UK£581m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, SSP Group has an ROCE of 20%.

See our latest analysis for SSP Group

Does SSP Group Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. SSP Group’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 8.5% average in the Hospitality industry. I think that’s good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Setting aside the comparison to its industry for a moment, SSP Group’s ROCE in absolute terms currently looks quite high.

Our data shows that SSP Group currently has an ROCE of 20%, compared to its ROCE of 12% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving.

LSE:SSPG Last Perf February 14th 19

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 deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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 SSP Group.

Do SSP Group’s Current Liabilities Skew Its 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

SSP Group has total assets of UK£1.6b and current liabilities of UK£581m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 37% of its total assets. SSP Group’s ROCE is boosted somewhat by its middling amount of current liabilities.

Our Take On SSP Group’s ROCE

Even so, it has a great ROCE, and could be an attractive prospect for further research. 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.

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.