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Should You Worry About Waste Connections, Inc.’s (NYSE:WCN) ROCE?

Yolanda Lovett

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Today we’ll evaluate Waste Connections, Inc. (NYSE:WCN) 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 measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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?

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 Waste Connections:

0.076 = US$816m ÷ (US$12b – US$815m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, Waste Connections has an ROCE of 7.6%.

See our latest analysis for Waste Connections

Does Waste Connections Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, Waste Connections’s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 11% average in the Commercial Services industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Separate from how Waste Connections 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.

NYSE:WCN Last Perf February 4th 19

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Waste Connections.

Do Waste Connections’s Current Liabilities Skew Its 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Waste Connections has total liabilities of US$815m and total assets of US$12b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 6.7% of its total assets. Waste Connections has a low level of current liabilities, which have a minimal impact on its uninspiring ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Waste Connections’s ROCE

Waste Connections looks like an ok business, but on this analysis it is not at the top of our buy list. But note: Waste Connections may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.