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Why Bellway p.l.c.’s (LON:BWY) Return On Capital Employed Is Impressive

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Bellway p.l.c. (LON:BWY) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. 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. 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.

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 Bellway:

0.22 = UK£675m ÷ (UK£3.9b - UK£869m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to July 2019.)

Therefore, Bellway has an ROCE of 22%.

View our latest analysis for Bellway

Does Bellway Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Bellway's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 16% average in the Consumer Durables industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Setting aside the comparison to its industry for a moment, Bellway's ROCE in absolute terms currently looks quite high.

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

LSE:BWY Past Revenue and Net Income, January 15th 2020

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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Bellway.

Do Bellway'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. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Bellway has total assets of UK£3.9b and current liabilities of UK£869m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 22% of its total assets. A minimal amount of current liabilities limits the impact on ROCE.

Our Take On Bellway's ROCE

This is good to see, and with such a high ROCE, Bellway may be worth a closer look. Bellway 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).

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.

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. Thank you for reading.