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Is United States Lime & Minerals, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:USLM) 8.5% Return On Capital Employed Good News?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at United States Lime & Minerals, Inc. (NASDAQ:USLM) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. Renowned investment researcher Michael Mauboussin has suggested that a high ROCE can indicate that 'one dollar invested in the company generates value of more than one dollar'.

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 United States Lime & Minerals:

0.085 = US$22m (US$261m - US$9.4m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, United States Lime & Minerals has an ROCE of 8.5%.

See our latest analysis for United States Lime & Minerals

Is United States Lime & Minerals's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, United States Lime & Minerals's ROCE appears to be around the 8.9% average of the Basic Materials industry. Separate from how United States Lime & Minerals 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.

The image below shows how United States Lime & Minerals's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGS:USLM Past Revenue and Net Income, October 3rd 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. You can check if United States Lime & Minerals has cyclical profits by looking at this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect United States Lime & Minerals's ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. 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.

United States Lime & Minerals has total liabilities of US$9.4m and total assets of US$261m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 3.6% of its total assets. United States Lime & Minerals has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

Our Take On United States Lime & Minerals's ROCE

United States Lime & Minerals looks like an ok business, but on this analysis it is not at the top of our buy list. 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).

I will like United States Lime & Minerals better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.