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What We Think Of Associated British Foods plc’s (LON:ABF) Investment Potential

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll evaluate Associated British Foods plc (LON:ABF) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Associated British Foods:

0.12 = UK£1.3b ÷ (UK£14b - UK£3.2b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, Associated British Foods has an ROCE of 12%.

Check out our latest analysis for Associated British Foods

Is Associated British Foods's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Associated British Foods's ROCE is around the 12% average reported by the Food industry. Regardless of where Associated British Foods sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

LSE:ABF Past Revenue and Net Income, April 9th 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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Associated British Foods.

Associated British Foods'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. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Associated British Foods has total liabilities of UK£3.2b and total assets of UK£14b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 24% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From Associated British Foods's ROCE

Overall, Associated British Foods has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of 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 like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.