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Has Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE:WHR) Been Employing Capital Shrewdly?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Whirlpool Corporation (NYSE:WHR) 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

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. 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 Whirlpool:

0.13 = US$1.3b ÷ (US$20b - US$10b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Whirlpool has an ROCE of 13%.

See our latest analysis for Whirlpool

Does Whirlpool Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, Whirlpool's ROCE appears to be around the 13% average of the Consumer Durables industry. Separate from Whirlpool's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

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

NYSE:WHR Past Revenue and Net Income, August 11th 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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Whirlpool.

Whirlpool'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.

Whirlpool has total assets of US$20b and current liabilities of US$10b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 51% of its total assets. This is admittedly a high level of current liabilities, improving ROCE substantially.

What We Can Learn From Whirlpool's ROCE

The ROCE would not look as appealing if the company had fewer current liabilities. Whirlpool 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 like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.