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Why You Should Care About Buzzi Unicem S.p.A.’s (BIT:BZU) Low Return On Capital

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Buzzi Unicem S.p.A. (BIT:BZU) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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, 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 measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the 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'.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Buzzi Unicem:

0.073 = €383m ÷ (€6.1b - €806m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Buzzi Unicem has an ROCE of 7.3%.

See our latest analysis for Buzzi Unicem

Does Buzzi Unicem Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Buzzi Unicem's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 9.4% average in the Basic Materials industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Buzzi Unicem's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

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

BIT:BZU Past Revenue and Net Income March 26th 2020

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

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Buzzi Unicem'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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Buzzi Unicem has total assets of €6.1b and current liabilities of €806m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 13% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Buzzi Unicem's ROCE

If Buzzi Unicem continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. You might be able to find a better investment than Buzzi Unicem. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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

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.