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Why We Like Tate Lyle plc’s (LON:TATE) 14% Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Tate & Lyle plc (LON:TATE) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since 'No two businesses are exactly alike.'

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Tate & Lyle:

0.14 = UK£294m ÷ (UK£2.8b - UK£681m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Tate & Lyle has an ROCE of 14%.

Check out our latest analysis for Tate & Lyle

Does Tate & Lyle Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In our analysis, Tate & Lyle's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 11% average in the Food industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of where Tate & Lyle sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

Our data shows that Tate & Lyle currently has an ROCE of 14%, compared to its ROCE of 9.0% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Tate & Lyle's past growth compares to other companies.

LSE:TATE Past Revenue and Net Income, August 20th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Tate & Lyle.

How Tate & Lyle's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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.

Tate & Lyle has total assets of UK£2.8b and current liabilities of UK£681m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 24% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

Our Take On Tate & Lyle's ROCE

With that in mind, Tate & Lyle's ROCE appears pretty good. Tate & Lyle 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 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.