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What Can We Learn From Sonoco Products Company’s (NYSE:SON) Investment Returns?

Simply Wall St

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Today we are going to look at Sonoco Products Company ( NYSE:SON ) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. 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 metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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 Sonoco Products:

0.13 = US$500m ÷ (US$4.9b - US$1.2b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Sonoco Products has an ROCE of 13%.

See our latest analysis for Sonoco Products

Is Sonoco Products's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see Sonoco Products's ROCE is around the 12% average reported by the Packaging industry. Independently of how Sonoco Products compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

NYSE:SON Past Revenue and Net Income, June 4th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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. 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 Sonoco Products's ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Sonoco Products has total assets of US$4.9b and current liabilities of US$1.2b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 23% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From Sonoco Products's ROCE

Overall, Sonoco Products has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. Sonoco Products 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.

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.