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Is Valhi, Inc.’s (NYSE:VHI) 17% ROCE Any Good?

Michael Crabtree

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Today we are going to look at Valhi, Inc. (NYSE:VHI) 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. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect 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.’

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

Analysts use this formula to calculate return on capital employed:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets – Current Liabilities)

Or for Valhi:

0.17 = US$357m ÷ (US$2.8b – US$382m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, Valhi has an ROCE of 17%.

Check out our latest analysis for Valhi

Is Valhi’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, we find that Valhi’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 12% average in the Chemicals industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Separate from Valhi’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

As we can see, Valhi currently has an ROCE of 17% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 1.8%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NYSE:VHI Last Perf February 13th 19

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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. You can check if Valhi has cyclical profits by looking at this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

Do Valhi’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Valhi has total assets of US$2.8b and current liabilities of US$382m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 14% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Valhi’s ROCE

Overall, Valhi has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Valhi. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.