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Evaluating Commercial Metals Company’s (NYSE:CMC) Investments In Its Business

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Commercial Metals Company ( NYSE:CMC ) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

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

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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 Commercial Metals:

0.10 = US$318m ÷ (US$3.8b - US$704m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to May 2019.)

Therefore, Commercial Metals has an ROCE of 10%.

See our latest analysis for Commercial Metals

Is Commercial Metals's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. It appears that Commercial Metals's ROCE is fairly close to the Metals and Mining industry average of 8.9%. Separate from how Commercial Metals stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Our data shows that Commercial Metals currently has an ROCE of 10%, compared to its ROCE of 7.8% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. The image below shows how Commercial Metals's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:CMC Past Revenue and Net Income, September 14th 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. We note Commercial Metals could be considered a cyclical business. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company .

How Commercial Metals's Current Liabilities Impact Its 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 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.

Commercial Metals has total assets of US$3.8b and current liabilities of US$704m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 19% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From Commercial Metals's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Commercial Metals's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. 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 are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.