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A Close Look At Packaging Corporation of America’s (NYSE:PKG) 19% ROCE

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Today we are going to look at Packaging Corporation of America ( NYSE:PKG ) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

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

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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?

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 Packaging of America:

0.19 = US$1.2b ÷ (US$6.9b - US$741m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Packaging of America has an ROCE of 19%.

Check out our latest analysis for Packaging of America

Is Packaging of America's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, Packaging of America's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 10% average in the Packaging industry. I think that's good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Regardless of where Packaging of America sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

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

NYSE:PKG Past Revenue and Net Income, July 10th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company .

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Packaging of America's ROCE?

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Packaging of America has total liabilities of US$741m and total assets of US$6.9b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 11% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

The Bottom Line On Packaging of America's ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Packaging of America could be worth a closer look. Packaging of America looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

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.