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Why We Like Bowl America Incorporated’s (NYSEMKT:BWL.A) 14% Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Bowl America Incorporated (NYSEMKT:BWL.A) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Bowl America:

0.14 = US$3.7m ÷ (US$30m - US$4.6m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Bowl America has an ROCE of 14%.

View our latest analysis for Bowl America

Does Bowl America Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In our analysis, Bowl America's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 8.8% average in the Hospitality industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of where Bowl America sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

Our data shows that Bowl America currently has an ROCE of 14%, compared to its ROCE of 8.0% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving. The image below shows how Bowl America's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

AMEX:BWL.A Past Revenue and Net Income, August 14th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. You can check if Bowl America has cyclical profits by looking at this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

Do Bowl America's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

Bowl America has total assets of US$30m and current liabilities of US$4.6m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 15% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

Our Take On Bowl America's ROCE

Overall, Bowl America has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. Bowl America 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.

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

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.