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Why Hostess Brands, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:TWNK) Return On Capital Employed Looks Uninspiring

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Hostess Brands, Inc. (NASDAQ:TWNK) 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.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

What is 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. 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 Hostess Brands:

0.048 = US$138m ÷ (US$3.1b - US$167m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Hostess Brands has an ROCE of 4.8%.

See our latest analysis for Hostess Brands

Is Hostess Brands's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see Hostess Brands's ROCE is meaningfully below the Food industry average of 8.2%. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Putting aside Hostess Brands's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor - considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

Hostess Brands's current ROCE of 4.8% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 61% ROCE. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Hostess Brands's past growth compares to other companies.

NasdaqCM:TWNK Past Revenue and Net Income, September 2nd 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Hostess Brands's ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Hostess Brands has total liabilities of US$167m and total assets of US$3.1b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 5.4% of its total assets. Hostess Brands has very few current liabilities, which have a minimal effect on its already low ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Hostess Brands's ROCE

Nonetheless, there may be better places to invest your capital. 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).

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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.