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Why We’re Not Impressed By Kwan On Holdings Limited’s (HKG:1559) 8.9% ROCE

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Kwan On Holdings Limited (HKG:1559) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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 is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Kwan On Holdings:

0.089 = HK$33m ÷ (HK$641m - HK$267m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Kwan On Holdings has an ROCE of 8.9%.

Check out our latest analysis for Kwan On Holdings

Does Kwan On Holdings Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Kwan On Holdings's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 12% average in the Construction 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, Kwan On Holdings'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.

Kwan On Holdings's current ROCE of 8.9% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 32% ROCE. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Kwan On Holdings's past growth compares to other companies.

SEHK:1559 Past Revenue and Net Income, October 31st 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. If Kwan On Holdings is cyclical, it could make sense to check out this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

Do Kwan On Holdings's Current Liabilities Skew Its 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 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Kwan On Holdings has total assets of HK$641m and current liabilities of HK$267m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 42% of its total assets. Kwan On Holdings's middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

The Bottom Line On Kwan On Holdings's ROCE

Unfortunately, its ROCE is still uninspiring, and there are potentially more attractive prospects out there. 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).

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.