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Should You Care About CMS Energy Corporation’s (NYSE:CMS) Investment Potential?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at CMS Energy Corporation (NYSE:CMS) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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?

Analysts use this formula to calculate return on capital employed:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets - Current Liabilities)

Or for CMS Energy:

0.055 = US$1.3b ÷ (US$27b - US$2.7b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

So, CMS Energy has an ROCE of 5.5%.

See our latest analysis for CMS Energy

Is CMS Energy's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, CMS Energy's ROCE appears to be around the 5.0% average of the Integrated Utilities industry. Separate from how CMS Energy stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

The image below shows how CMS Energy's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:CMS Past Revenue and Net Income, March 4th 2020

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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for CMS Energy.

How CMS Energy's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that need to be paid within 12 months. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

CMS Energy has current liabilities of US$2.7b and total assets of US$27b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 10% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From CMS Energy's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with CMS Energy's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. You might be able to find a better investment than CMS Energy. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.