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Why Denny's Corporation’s (NASDAQ:DENN) Return On Capital Employed Is Impressive

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Denny's Corporation (NASDAQ:DENN) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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?

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 Denny's:

0.22 = US$74m ÷ (US$439m - US$99m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Denny's has an ROCE of 22%.

Check out our latest analysis for Denny's

Is Denny's's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, we find that Denny's's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 9.1% average in the Hospitality industry. I think that's good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Setting aside the comparison to its industry for a moment, Denny's's ROCE in absolute terms currently looks quite high.

Denny's's current ROCE of 22% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 32%, 3 years ago. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently. You can see in the image below how Denny's's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NasdaqCM:DENN Past Revenue and Net Income, August 13th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Denny's.

How Denny's's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Denny's has total liabilities of US$99m and total assets of US$439m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 23% of its total assets. A minimal amount of current liabilities limits the impact on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Denny's's ROCE

With low current liabilities and a high ROCE, Denny's could be worthy of further investigation. Denny's 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.

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.