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Why We’re Not Keen On BreadTalk Group Limited’s (SGX:CTN) 5.8% Return On Capital

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate BreadTalk Group Limited (SGX:CTN) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. Renowned investment researcher Michael Mauboussin has suggested that a high ROCE can indicate that 'one dollar invested in the company generates value of more than one dollar'.

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 BreadTalk Group:

0.058 = S$34m ÷ (S$977m - S$391m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, BreadTalk Group has an ROCE of 5.8%.

View our latest analysis for BreadTalk Group

Does BreadTalk Group Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In this analysis, BreadTalk Group's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 7.4% average reported by the Hospitality industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Aside from the industry comparison, BreadTalk Group'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.

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

SGX:CTN Past Revenue and Net Income, September 22nd 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

How BreadTalk Group's Current Liabilities Impact 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. 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.

BreadTalk Group has total liabilities of S$391m and total assets of S$977m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 40% of its total assets. BreadTalk Group's middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

Our Take On BreadTalk Group's ROCE

With this level of liabilities and a mediocre ROCE, there are potentially better investments out there. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

I will like BreadTalk Group better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.