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Here’s What G4S plc’s (LON:GFS) Return On Capital Can Tell Us

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at G4S plc (LON:GFS) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

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

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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?

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 G4S:

0.10 = UK£417m ÷ (UK£5.9b - UK£1.9b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, G4S has an ROCE of 10%.

Check out our latest analysis for G4S

Does G4S Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. It appears that G4S's ROCE is fairly close to the Commercial Services industry average of 10%. Separate from G4S's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how G4S's past growth compares to other companies.

LSE:GFS Past Revenue and Net Income, March 9th 2020

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for G4S.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect G4S'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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

G4S has current liabilities of UK£1.9b and total assets of UK£5.9b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 32% of its total assets. With this level of current liabilities, G4S's ROCE is boosted somewhat.

Our Take On G4S's ROCE

While its ROCE looks good, it's worth remembering that the current liabilities are making the business look better. G4S 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).

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.