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Should You Worry About China Energy Engineering Corporation Limited’s (HKG:3996) ROCE?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate China Energy Engineering Corporation Limited (HKG:3996) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First of all, we'll work out how to 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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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 China Energy Engineering:

0.063 = CN¥12b ÷ (CN¥405b - CN¥218b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, China Energy Engineering has an ROCE of 6.3%.

View our latest analysis for China Energy Engineering

Does China Energy Engineering Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, China Energy Engineering's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 12% average in the Construction industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, China Energy Engineering'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.

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

SEHK:3996 Past Revenue and Net Income, December 4th 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 China Energy Engineering.

China Energy Engineering'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.

China Energy Engineering has total liabilities of CN¥218b and total assets of CN¥405b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 54% of its total assets. China Energy Engineering has a fairly high level of current liabilities, meaningfully impacting its ROCE.

The Bottom Line On China Energy Engineering's ROCE

Even so, the company reports a mediocre ROCE, and there may be better investments out there. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than China Energy Engineering. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.