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Is Xylem Inc.’s (NYSE:XYL) Return On Capital Employed Any Good?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Xylem Inc. (NYSE:XYL) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 Xylem:

0.11 = US$696m ÷ (US$7.7b - US$1.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Xylem has an ROCE of 11%.

Check out our latest analysis for Xylem

Is Xylem's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. It appears that Xylem's ROCE is fairly close to the Machinery industry average of 12%. Independently of how Xylem compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

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

NYSE:XYL Past Revenue and Net Income, August 19th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Xylem.

Do Xylem's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Xylem has total assets of US$7.7b and current liabilities of US$1.5b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 20% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

The Bottom Line On Xylem's ROCE

Overall, Xylem has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. There might be better investments than Xylem out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

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.