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Are Yellow Cake plc’s (LON:YCA) Returns Worth Your While?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Yellow Cake plc (LON:YCA) 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. 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 measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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 Yellow Cake:

0.12 = US$28m ÷ (US$226m - US$384k) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Yellow Cake has an ROCE of 12%.

See our latest analysis for Yellow Cake

Is Yellow Cake's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see Yellow Cake's ROCE is around the 13% average reported by the Trade Distributors industry. Independently of how Yellow Cake compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

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

AIM:YCA Past Revenue and Net Income, September 3rd 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Yellow Cake.

Yellow Cake's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Yellow Cake has total liabilities of US$384k and total assets of US$226m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 0.2% of its total assets. With low current liabilities, Yellow Cake's decent ROCE looks that much more respectable.

Our Take On Yellow Cake's ROCE

If it is able to keep this up, Yellow Cake could be attractive. Yellow Cake 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 like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.