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Why We’re Not Keen On Altice USA, Inc.’s (NYSE:ATUS) 5.8% Return On Capital

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Altice USA, Inc. (NYSE:ATUS) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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?

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 Altice USA:

0.058 = US$1.9b ÷ (US$34b - US$1.8b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Altice USA has an ROCE of 5.8%.

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Is Altice USA's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In this analysis, Altice USA's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 8.5% average reported by the Media industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Altice USA's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Altice USA's current ROCE of 5.8% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 15%, 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

NYSE:ATUS Past Revenue and Net Income, May 21st 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Altice USA.

Do Altice USA's Current Liabilities Skew 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 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.

Altice USA has total liabilities of US$1.8b and total assets of US$34b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 5.4% of its total assets. Altice USA reports few current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its unremarkable ROCE.

Our Take On Altice USA's ROCE

Altice USA looks like an ok business, but on this analysis it is not at the top of our buy list. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Altice USA. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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.