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Is Diageo plc (LON:DGE) Investing Effectively In Its Business?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll look at Diageo plc (LON:DGE) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

Firstly, 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 measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed 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. 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'.

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 Diageo:

0.16 = UK£4.1b ÷ (UK£32b - UK£7.1b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Diageo has an ROCE of 16%.

View our latest analysis for Diageo

Is Diageo's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see Diageo's ROCE is around the 17% average reported by the Beverage industry. Separate from Diageo's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

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

LSE:DGE Past Revenue and Net Income, June 28th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Diageo.

How Diageo's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Diageo has total liabilities of UK£7.1b and total assets of UK£32b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 22% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Diageo's ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, Diageo could be worth a closer look. Diageo 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.

I will like Diageo better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.