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Are Superior Plus Corp.’s (TSE:SPB) Returns Worth Your While?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll look at Superior Plus Corp. (TSE:SPB) 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. 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 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. 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 Superior Plus:

0.072 = CA$236m ÷ (CA$3.7b - CA$425m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Superior Plus has an ROCE of 7.2%.

View our latest analysis for Superior Plus

Is Superior Plus's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, Superior Plus's ROCE appears to be around the 7.2% average of the Gas Utilities industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Superior Plus's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

In our analysis, Superior Plus's ROCE appears to be 7.2%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 3.7%. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly.

TSX:SPB Past Revenue and Net Income, June 26th 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 deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Superior Plus's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Superior Plus has total assets of CA$3.7b and current liabilities of CA$425m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 12% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From Superior Plus's ROCE

That said, Superior Plus's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.