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Sydney Airport Limited (ASX:SYD) Earns A Nice Return On Capital Employed

Kristin Rankin

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Today we’ll evaluate Sydney Airport Limited (ASX:SYD) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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 up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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 Sydney Airport:

0.074 = AU$813m ÷ (AU$12b – AU$1.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

So, Sydney Airport has an ROCE of 7.4%.

Check out our latest analysis for Sydney Airport

Does Sydney Airport Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, we find that Sydney Airport’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 3.9% average in the Infrastructure industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Aside from the industry comparison, Sydney Airport’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.

ASX:SYD Last Perf February 13th 19

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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 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 Sydney Airport.

Do Sydney Airport’s Current Liabilities Skew Its 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 the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Sydney Airport has total liabilities of AU$1.1b and total assets of AU$12b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 8.7% of its total assets. Sydney Airport reports few current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its unremarkable ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Sydney Airport’s ROCE

If performance improves, then Sydney Airport may be an OK investment, especially at the right valuation. You might be able to find a better buy than Sydney Airport. 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).

I will like Sydney Airport better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.