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Is Xcel Energy Inc.’s (NASDAQ:XEL) Return On Capital Employed Any Good?

Alvin Rowe

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Today we are going to look at Xcel Energy Inc. (NASDAQ:XEL) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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.’

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Xcel Energy:

0.048 = US$2.0b ÷ (US$45b – US$3.8b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Xcel Energy has an ROCE of 4.8%.

Check out our latest analysis for Xcel Energy

Does Xcel Energy Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Xcel Energy’s ROCE is around the 5.0% average reported by the Electric Utilities industry. Independently of how Xcel Energy compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

NASDAQGS:XEL Last Perf February 7th 19

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately 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 Xcel Energy.

How Xcel Energy’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

Xcel Energy has total liabilities of US$3.8b and total assets of US$45b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 8.6% of its total assets. Xcel Energy has very few current liabilities, which have a minimal effect on its already low ROCE.

Our Take On Xcel Energy’s ROCE

Still, investors could probably find more attractive prospects with better performance out there. But note: Xcel Energy 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).

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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.