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Is Supply Network Limited’s (ASX:SNL) 27% ROCE Any Good?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Supply Network Limited (ASX:SNL) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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 Supply Network:

0.27 = AU$13m ÷ (AU$70m - AU$22m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Supply Network has an ROCE of 27%.

See our latest analysis for Supply Network

Is Supply Network's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, we find that Supply Network's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 12% average in the Retail Distributors industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Setting aside the comparison to its industry for a moment, Supply Network's ROCE in absolute terms currently looks quite high.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Supply Network's past growth compares to other companies.

ASX:SNL Past Revenue and Net Income, September 10th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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 only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Supply Network.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Supply Network's ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

Supply Network has total assets of AU$70m and current liabilities of AU$22m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 32% of its total assets. Supply Network has a medium level of current liabilities, boosting its ROCE somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Supply Network's ROCE

Despite this, it reports a high ROCE, and may be worth investigating further. There might be better investments than Supply Network out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

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.