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What We Think Of Fletcher Building Limited’s (NZSE:FBU) Investment Potential

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Fletcher Building Limited (NZSE:FBU) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the 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.

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 Fletcher Building:

0.099 = NZ$535m ÷ (NZ$7.7b - NZ$2.3b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Fletcher Building has an ROCE of 9.9%.

View our latest analysis for Fletcher Building

Does Fletcher Building Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. It appears that Fletcher Building's ROCE is fairly close to the Basic Materials industry average of 9.9%. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Fletcher Building'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.

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

NZSE:FBU Past Revenue and Net Income, October 27th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Fletcher Building.

How Fletcher Building's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that 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.

Fletcher Building has total assets of NZ$7.7b and current liabilities of NZ$2.3b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 30% of its total assets. Fletcher Building has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost its ROCE somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Fletcher Building's ROCE

With this level of liabilities and a mediocre ROCE, there are potentially better investments out there. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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.