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Why CanWel Building Materials Group Ltd.’s (TSE:CWX) Use Of Investor Capital Doesn’t Look Great

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at CanWel Building Materials Group Ltd. (TSE:CWX) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

First up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the 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.'

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 CanWel Building Materials Group:

0.075 = CA$51m ÷ (CA$804m - CA$126m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, CanWel Building Materials Group has an ROCE of 7.5%.

Check out our latest analysis for CanWel Building Materials Group

Is CanWel Building Materials Group's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In this analysis, CanWel Building Materials Group's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 16% average reported by the Trade Distributors industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how CanWel Building Materials Group stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

TSX:CWX Past Revenue and Net Income, April 17th 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

CanWel Building Materials Group'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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

CanWel Building Materials Group has total assets of CA$804m and current liabilities of CA$126m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 16% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

Our Take On CanWel Building Materials Group's ROCE

If CanWel Building Materials Group continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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.