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Are Xiaomi Corporation’s (HKG:1810) High Returns Really That Great?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Xiaomi Corporation (HKG:1810) 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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?

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 Xiaomi:

0.19 = CN¥17b ÷ (CN¥158b - CN¥69b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Xiaomi has an ROCE of 19%.

View our latest analysis for Xiaomi

Does Xiaomi Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In our analysis, Xiaomi's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 6.9% average in the Tech industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Independently of how Xiaomi compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

We can see that , Xiaomi currently has an ROCE of 19% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 0.4%. This makes us think the business might be improving. You can see in the image below how Xiaomi's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

SEHK:1810 Past Revenue and Net Income, September 16th 2019

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 deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Xiaomi.

Xiaomi's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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. 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.

Xiaomi has total liabilities of CN¥69b and total assets of CN¥158b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 44% of its total assets. With this level of current liabilities, Xiaomi's ROCE is boosted somewhat.

The Bottom Line On Xiaomi's ROCE

With a decent ROCE, the company could be interesting, but remember that the level of current liabilities make the ROCE look better. Xiaomi 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.

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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.