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Here’s why Prysmian S.p.A.’s (BIT:PRY) Returns On Capital Matters So Much

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Prysmian S.p.A. (BIT:PRY) 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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 Prysmian:

0.088 = €539m ÷ (€11b - €4.4b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Prysmian has an ROCE of 8.8%.

See our latest analysis for Prysmian

Is Prysmian's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Prysmian's ROCE is meaningfully below the Electrical industry average of 18%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Prysmian'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.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Prysmian's past growth compares to other companies.

BIT:PRY Past Revenue and Net Income, September 24th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. 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 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 Prysmian.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Prysmian's ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Prysmian has total liabilities of €4.4b and total assets of €11b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 42% of its total assets. Prysmian's middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

What We Can Learn From Prysmian's ROCE

Unfortunately, its ROCE is still uninspiring, and there are potentially more attractive prospects out there. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Prysmian. 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.