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Is Transurban Group (ASX:TCL) Investing Effectively In Its Business?

Raj Burman

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Today we’ll look at Transurban Group (ASX:TCL) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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 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.

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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Transurban Group:

0.04 = AU$999m ÷ (AU$26b – AU$2.2b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Transurban Group has an ROCE of 4.0%.

Check out our latest analysis for Transurban Group

Does Transurban Group Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. It appears that Transurban Group’s ROCE is fairly close to the Infrastructure industry average of 3.8%. Regardless of how Transurban Group stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is quite low (especially compared to a bank account). Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

ASX:TCL Past Revenue and Net Income, February 20th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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.

How Transurban Group’s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Transurban Group has total liabilities of AU$2.2b and total assets of AU$26b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 8.4% of its total assets. Transurban Group has a low level of current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its already low ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Transurban Group’s ROCE

Nonetheless, there may be better places to invest your capital. But note: Transurban Group may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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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.