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Why We Like Wingstop Inc.’s (NASDAQ:WING) 33% Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Wingstop Inc. (NASDAQ:WING) 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Understanding 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Wingstop:

0.33 = US$44m ÷ (US$168m - US$37m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Wingstop has an ROCE of 33%.

See our latest analysis for Wingstop

Does Wingstop Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In our analysis, Wingstop's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 8.5% average in the Hospitality industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Setting aside the comparison to its industry for a moment, Wingstop's ROCE in absolute terms currently looks quite high.

You can see in the image below how Wingstop's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NasdaqGS:WING Past Revenue and Net Income, January 3rd 2020

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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Wingstop.

Wingstop's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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.

Wingstop has total liabilities of US$37m and total assets of US$168m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 22% of its total assets. A minimal amount of current liabilities limits the impact on ROCE.

Our Take On Wingstop's ROCE

Low current liabilities and high ROCE is a good combination, making Wingstop look quite interesting. Wingstop shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.