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What Does Centene Corporation’s (NYSE:CNC) 11% ROCE Say About The Business?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll evaluate Centene Corporation ( NYSE:CNC ) 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. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding 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. 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.'

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Centene:

0.11 = US$2.3b ÷ (US$34b - US$13b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Centene has an ROCE of 11%.

Check out our latest analysis for Centene

Does Centene Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. It appears that Centene's ROCE is fairly close to the Healthcare industry average of 12%. Separate from Centene's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

Our data shows that Centene currently has an ROCE of 11%, compared to its ROCE of 7.8% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NYSE:CNC Past Revenue and Net Income, June 17th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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. 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 Centene .

Centene'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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Centene has total liabilities of US$13b and total assets of US$34b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 39% of its total assets. Centene has a middling amount of current liabilities, increasing its ROCE somewhat.

Our Take On Centene's ROCE

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

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.