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What We Think Of Murphy Oil Corporation’s (NYSE:MUR) Investment Potential

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Murphy Oil Corporation (NYSE:MUR) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. 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. 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 Murphy Oil:

0.08 = US$904m ÷ (US$14b - US$2.2b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Murphy Oil has an ROCE of 8.0%.

Check out our latest analysis for Murphy Oil

Is Murphy Oil's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, Murphy Oil's ROCE appears to be around the 8.2% average of the Oil and Gas industry. Separate from how Murphy Oil stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Murphy Oil delivered an ROCE of 8.0%, which is better than 3 years ago, as was making losses back then. That suggests the business has returned to profitability. You can see in the image below how Murphy Oil's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:MUR Past Revenue and Net Income, October 28th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. 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. Given the industry it operates in, Murphy Oil could be considered cyclical. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Murphy Oil.

How Murphy Oil's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Murphy Oil has total assets of US$14b and current liabilities of US$2.2b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 16% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

Our Take On Murphy Oil's ROCE

If Murphy Oil continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. 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).

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.