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Why We’re Not Keen On Ashland Global Holdings Inc.’s (NYSE:ASH) 4.1% Return On Capital

Armando Maloney

Today we are going to look at Ashland Global Holdings Inc. (NYSE:ASH) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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 up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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?

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 Ashland Global Holdings:

0.041 = US$292m ÷ (US$8.3b – US$1.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, Ashland Global Holdings has an ROCE of 4.1%.

Check out our latest analysis for Ashland Global Holdings

Is Ashland Global Holdings’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Ashland Global Holdings’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Chemicals industry average of 12%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Putting aside Ashland Global Holdings’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor – considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

Our data shows that Ashland Global Holdings currently has an ROCE of 4.1%, compared to its ROCE of 1.7% 3 years ago. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly.

NYSE:ASH Last Perf January 25th 19

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately 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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Ashland Global Holdings.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Ashland Global Holdings’s 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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Ashland Global Holdings has total liabilities of US$1.1b and total assets of US$8.3b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 13% of its total assets. With a very reasonable level of current liabilities, so the impact on ROCE is fairly minimal.

The Bottom Line On Ashland Global Holdings’s ROCE

Ashland Global Holdings has a poor ROCE, and there may be better investment prospects out there. But note: Ashland Global Holdings may not be the best stock to buy. 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).

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.