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What We Think Of Aurizon Holdings Limited’s (ASX:AZJ) Investment Potential

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Aurizon Holdings Limited (ASX:AZJ) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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.

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 Aurizon Holdings:

0.10 = AU$878m ÷ (AU$9.7b - AU$949m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Aurizon Holdings has an ROCE of 10%.

View our latest analysis for Aurizon Holdings

Is Aurizon Holdings's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that Aurizon Holdings's ROCE is fairly close to the Transportation industry average of 11%. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Aurizon Holdings's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

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

ASX:AZJ Past Revenue and Net Income, November 30th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Aurizon Holdings.

Do Aurizon Holdings's Current Liabilities Skew 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.

Aurizon Holdings has total liabilities of AU$949m and total assets of AU$9.7b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 9.8% of its total assets. Aurizon Holdings has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Aurizon Holdings's ROCE

If performance improves, then Aurizon Holdings may be an OK investment, especially at the right valuation. 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.

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

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.