Why You Should Care About China State Construction International Holdings Limited’s (HKG:3311) Low Return On Capital

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at China State Construction International Holdings Limited (HKG:3311) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is 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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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'.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 China State Construction International Holdings:

0.086 = HK$7.4b ÷ (HK$147b - HK$60b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, China State Construction International Holdings has an ROCE of 8.6%.

View our latest analysis for China State Construction International Holdings

Is China State Construction International Holdings's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In this analysis, China State Construction International Holdings's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 12% average reported by the Construction industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Aside from the industry comparison, China State Construction International Holdings's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

The image below shows how China State Construction International Holdings's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

SEHK:3311 Past Revenue and Net Income, February 22nd 2020

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

China State Construction International Holdings's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

China State Construction International Holdings has current liabilities of HK$60b and total assets of HK$147b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 41% of its total assets. China State Construction International Holdings's middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

What We Can Learn From China State Construction International Holdings's ROCE

Despite this, its ROCE is still mediocre, and you may find more appealing investments elsewhere. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than China State Construction International Holdings. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

I will like China State Construction International Holdings better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.