UK Markets open in 6 hrs 19 mins

Why Electricité de France S.A.’s (EPA:EDF) Return On Capital Employed Looks Uninspiring

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 of all, we'll work out how to 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.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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:

0.019 = €4.5b ÷ (€290b - €52b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Electricité de France has an ROCE of 1.9%.

Check out our latest analysis for Electricité de France

Is Electricité de France's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare 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. Regardless of how Electricité de France 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.

Electricité de France's current ROCE of 1.9% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 3.3%, 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. 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, November 6th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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.

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

Electricité de France has total liabilities of €52b and total assets of €290b. 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.

What We Can Learn From 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. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.