UK markets open in 6 hours 38 minutes

Electricité de France S.A.’s (EPA:EDF) Investment Returns Are Lagging Its Industry

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Electricité de France S.A. (EPA:EDF) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

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

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?

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 Electricité de France:

0.026 = €6.4b ÷ (€303b - €55b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

So, Electricité de France has an ROCE of 2.6%.

View our latest analysis for Electricité de France

Does Electricité de France Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Electricité de France's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 7.4% average in the Electric Utilities industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Putting aside Electricité de France's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor - considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

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

ENXTPA:EDF Past Revenue and Net Income April 16th 2020

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. 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 Electricité de France's 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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Electricité de France has current liabilities of €55b and total assets of €303b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 18% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which will have a limited impact on the ROCE.

Our Take On Electricité de France's ROCE

While that is good to see, Electricité de France has a low ROCE and does not look attractive in this analysis. You might be able to find a better investment than Electricité de France. 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.