Examining Nokia Corporation’s (HEL:NOKIA) Weak Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Nokia Corporation (HEL:NOKIA) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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, we'll go over how we 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.

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. 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 Nokia:

0.05 = €1.4b ÷ (€40b - €12b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2020.)

Therefore, Nokia has an ROCE of 5.0%.

Check out our latest analysis for Nokia

Is Nokia's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, Nokia's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 11% average in the Communications industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Aside from the industry comparison, Nokia'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.

Our data shows that Nokia currently has an ROCE of 5.0%, compared to its ROCE of 2.9% 3 years ago. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly. The image below shows how Nokia's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

HLSE:NOKIA Past Revenue and Net Income May 16th 2020

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately 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. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Nokia.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Nokia's ROCE?

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that need to be paid within 12 months. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Nokia has current liabilities of €12b and total assets of €40b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 31% of its total assets. Nokia has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost its ROCE somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Nokia's ROCE

Unfortunately, its ROCE is still uninspiring, and there are potentially more attractive prospects out there. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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.