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Is TEGNA Inc.’s (NYSE:TGNA) Return On Capital Employed Any Good?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at TEGNA Inc. (NYSE:TGNA) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First of all, we'll work out how to 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 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. 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'.

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 TEGNA:

0.099 = US$649m ÷ (US$6.9b - US$375m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, TEGNA has an ROCE of 9.9%.

View our latest analysis for TEGNA

Is TEGNA's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, TEGNA's ROCE appears to be around the 9.3% average of the Media industry. Separate from how TEGNA stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

The image below shows how TEGNA's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:TGNA Past Revenue and Net Income, November 28th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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.

How TEGNA's Current Liabilities Impact 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 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.

TEGNA has total liabilities of US$375m and total assets of US$6.9b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 5.4% of its total assets. TEGNA reports few current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its unremarkable ROCE.

What We Can Learn From TEGNA's ROCE

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

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.

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. Thank you for reading.