U.S. Markets open in 2 hrs 23 mins

Why We’re Not Impressed By Shenzhen International Holdings Limited’s (HKG:152) 5.4% ROCE

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Shenzhen International Holdings Limited (HKG:152) 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.

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 is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Shenzhen International Holdings:

0.054 = HK$3.9b ÷ (HK$84b - HK$12b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Shenzhen International Holdings has an ROCE of 5.4%.

See our latest analysis for Shenzhen International Holdings

Is Shenzhen International Holdings's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Shenzhen International Holdings's ROCE is meaningfully below the Infrastructure industry average of 7.3%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Shenzhen International 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.

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

SEHK:152 Past Revenue and Net Income, July 25th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Shenzhen International Holdings.

How Shenzhen International Holdings's Current Liabilities Impact 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. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Shenzhen International Holdings has total assets of HK$84b and current liabilities of HK$12b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 15% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Shenzhen International Holdings's ROCE

If Shenzhen International Holdings continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. 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 are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.