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Is Z Energy Limited’s (NZSE:ZEL) 16% ROCE Any Good?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Z Energy Limited (NZSE:ZEL) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared 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 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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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'.

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 Z Energy:

0.16 = NZ$308m ÷ (NZ$2.8b - NZ$867m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Z Energy has an ROCE of 16%.

View our latest analysis for Z Energy

Does Z Energy Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Z Energy's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 13% average in the Oil and Gas industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Independently of how Z Energy compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Z Energy's past growth compares to other companies.

NZSE:ZEL Past Revenue and Net Income, October 19th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. We note Z Energy could be considered a cyclical business. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Z Energy.

Z Energy'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. 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.

Z Energy has total liabilities of NZ$867m and total assets of NZ$2.8b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 30% of its total assets. With this level of current liabilities, Z Energy's ROCE is boosted somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Z Energy's ROCE

While its ROCE looks good, it's worth remembering that the current liabilities are making the business look better. There might be better investments than Z Energy 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.

I will like Z Energy better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.