U.S. Markets close in 1 hr 5 mins

Why We Like Chesapeake Utilities Corporation’s (NYSE:CPK) 9.0% Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Chesapeake Utilities Corporation (NYSE:CPK) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the 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.

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. 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 Chesapeake Utilities:

0.09 = US$105m ÷ (US$1.7b - US$512m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Chesapeake Utilities has an ROCE of 9.0%.

View our latest analysis for Chesapeake Utilities

Is Chesapeake Utilities's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, we find that Chesapeake Utilities's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 5.6% average in the Gas Utilities industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Chesapeake Utilities's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

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

NYSE:CPK Past Revenue and Net Income, November 9th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Chesapeake Utilities.

How Chesapeake Utilities's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Chesapeake Utilities has total assets of US$1.7b and current liabilities of US$512m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 30% of its total assets. Chesapeake Utilities's middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

What We Can Learn From Chesapeake Utilities's ROCE

Despite this, its ROCE is still mediocre, and you may find more appealing investments elsewhere. 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).

I will like Chesapeake Utilities better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.