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Why We Like Aaron's, Inc.’s (NYSE:AAN) 18% Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Aaron's, Inc. (NYSE:AAN) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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 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 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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 Aaron's:

0.18 = US$526m ÷ (US$3.2b - US$227m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Aaron's has an ROCE of 18%.

View our latest analysis for Aaron's

Is Aaron's's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, Aaron's's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 10% average in the Specialty Retail industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Separate from Aaron's's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

You can see in the image below how Aaron's's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:AAN Past Revenue and Net Income, September 26th 2019

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 only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Aaron's.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Aaron's's ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Aaron's has total liabilities of US$227m and total assets of US$3.2b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 7.1% of its total assets. In addition to low current liabilities (making a negligible impact on ROCE), Aaron's earns a sound return on capital employed.

What We Can Learn From Aaron's's ROCE

If it is able to keep this up, Aaron's could be attractive. Aaron's looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

There are plenty of other companies that have insiders buying up shares. You probably do 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.