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Is United Energy Group Limited’s (HKG:467) 17% ROCE Any Good?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at United Energy Group Limited (HKG:467) 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. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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 United Energy Group:

0.17 = HK$2.3b ÷ (HK$16b - HK$2.9b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, United Energy Group has an ROCE of 17%.

View our latest analysis for United Energy Group

Is United Energy Group's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In our analysis, United Energy Group's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 7.3% average in the Oil and Gas industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Independently of how United Energy Group compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

We can see that , United Energy Group currently has an ROCE of 17% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 12%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. The image below shows how United Energy Group's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

SEHK:467 Past Revenue and Net Income, August 19th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. Given the industry it operates in, United Energy Group could be considered cyclical. If United Energy Group is cyclical, it could make sense to check out this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

United Energy Group'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 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

United Energy Group has total liabilities of HK$2.9b and total assets of HK$16b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 18% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From United Energy Group's ROCE

Overall, United Energy Group has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. United Energy Group shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

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.