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Why Tronox Holdings plc’s (NYSE:TROX) Use Of Investor Capital Doesn’t Look Great

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll look at Tronox Holdings plc (NYSE:TROX) 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. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its 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?

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 Tronox Holdings:

0.061 = US$260m ÷ (US$4.7b - US$442m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Tronox Holdings has an ROCE of 6.1%.

See our latest analysis for Tronox Holdings

Is Tronox Holdings's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In this analysis, Tronox Holdings's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 11% average reported by the Chemicals industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how Tronox Holdings stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Tronox Holdings reported an ROCE of 6.1% -- better than 3 years ago, when the company didn't make a profit. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NYSE:TROX Past Revenue and Net Income, June 20th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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 Tronox Holdings.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Tronox 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.

Tronox Holdings has total assets of US$4.7b and current liabilities of US$442m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 9.4% of its total assets. With low levels of current liabilities, at least Tronox Holdings's mediocre ROCE is not unduly boosted.

The Bottom Line On Tronox Holdings's ROCE

Tronox Holdings looks like an ok business, but on this analysis it is not at the top of our buy list. 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 like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.