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Why We Like Kaiser Aluminum Corporation’s (NASDAQ:KALU) 12% Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Kaiser Aluminum Corporation (NASDAQ:KALU) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

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

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from 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.

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 Kaiser Aluminum:

0.12 = US$149m ÷ (US$1.4b - US$176m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Kaiser Aluminum has an ROCE of 12%.

Check out our latest analysis for Kaiser Aluminum

Does Kaiser Aluminum Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Kaiser Aluminum's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 9.2% average in the Metals and Mining industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of where Kaiser Aluminum sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

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

NasdaqGS:KALU Past Revenue and Net Income, December 9th 2019

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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. We note Kaiser Aluminum could be considered a cyclical business. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Kaiser Aluminum.

Do Kaiser Aluminum's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Kaiser Aluminum has total liabilities of US$176m and total assets of US$1.4b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 12% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Kaiser Aluminum's ROCE

With that in mind, Kaiser Aluminum's ROCE appears pretty good. There might be better investments than Kaiser Aluminum out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

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.