Today we’ll look at WESCO International, Inc. (NYSE:WCC) and reflect on its potential as an investment. To be precise, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.
Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.
What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?
ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested 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.’
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 WESCO International:
0.10 = US$354m ÷ (US$4.6b – US$1.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)
So, WESCO International has an ROCE of 10%.
Is WESCO International’s ROCE Good?
When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, we find that WESCO International’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 7.9% average in the Trade Distributors industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, WESCO International’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.
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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for WESCO International.
How WESCO International’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE
Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.
WESCO International has total assets of US$4.6b and current liabilities of US$1.1b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 23% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.
The Bottom Line On WESCO International’s ROCE
That said, WESCO International’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than WESCO International. 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.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.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.