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Are Denny’s Corporation’s (NASDAQ:DENN) High Returns Really That Great?

Simply Wall St

Today we’ll evaluate Denny’s Corporation ( NASDAQ:DENN ) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

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. 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’.

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 Denny’s:

0.32 = US$76m ÷ (US$335m – US$95m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Denny’s has an ROCE of 32%.

See our latest analysis for Denny’s

Is Denny’s’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Denny’s’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 10% average in the Hospitality industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Denny’s’s ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

NasdaqCM:DENN Past Revenue and Net Income, February 28th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company .

Denny’s’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Denny’s has total liabilities of US$95m and total assets of US$335m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 28% of its total assets. This is quite a low level of current liabilities which would not greatly boost the already high ROCE.

Our Take On Denny’s’s ROCE

This is good to see, and with such a high ROCE, Denny’s may be worth a closer look. But note: Denny’s 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).

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.