Return on Invested Capital: What Is It, Formula and Calculation, and Example

The financial metrics return on equity (ROE), and the return on capital employed (ROCE) are valuable tools for gauging a company’s operational efficiency and the resulting potential for future growth in value. They are often used together to produce a complete evaluation of financial performance. Return on capital employed can be especially useful when comparing the performance of companies in capital-intensive sectors, such as utilities and telecoms. This is because, unlike other fundamentals such as return on equity (ROE), which only analyzes profitability related to a company’s shareholders’ equity, ROCE considers debt and equity.

Return on capital employed is also commonly referred to as the primary ratio because it indicates the profits earned on corporate resources. On the other hand, ROIC uses invested capital – which is equal to fixed assets (PP&E) plus net working capital (NWC). The average ROCE will vary by industry, so comparisons must be done among peer groups comprised of similar companies to determine whether a given company’s ROCE is “good” or “bad”. Often, companies will make significant investments to expand, but if the ROIC is lower than the cost of capital (WACC), the Capex destroys value, not creating shareholder value.

  1. Some firms run at a zero-return level, and while they may not be destroying value, these companies have no excess capital to invest in future growth.
  2. When a company’s ROCE is higher than the cost of capital, it means that the company has utilized the capital in an efficient manner to generate profits.
  3. ROCE is a metric for analyzing profitability and for comparing profitability levels across companies in terms of capital.
  4. In general, both the ROIC and ROCE should be higher than a company’s weighted average cost of capital (WACC) in order for the company to be profitable in the long term.

In general, a higher ROE ratio means that the company is using its investors’ money more efficiently to enhance corporate performance and allow it to grow and expand to generate increasing profits. Capital employed is defined as total assets minus current liabilities or total shareholders’ equity plus debt liabilities. Therefore, it is similar to the return on equity (ROE) ratio, except it also includes debt liabilities. ROCE is figured using earnings before interest and taxes divided by the company’s total capital, both equity and debt. While ROI can be used to compare products and investment opportunities, ROCE is more specific to companies. The ROIC calculation begins with operating income, then adds nets other income to get EBIT.

Similarities between ROIC and ROCE

Based on the company’s pre-tax income and tax paid over the last 3 years, the company’s effective tax rate was around 10%. Compare that to someone with all of their revenues earned in the U.S., and their effective tax rate over the last 3 years is usually around 21-25%. Most of the time you should be able to trust this intuition, when it comes from good management teams. This is a company that has historically had large cash balances, while also parking a lot of retained earnings into short-term marketable securities (they are like holding cash but with interest).

It considers the profitability generated over an extended period and relates it to the capital employed. ROCE provides a comprehensive measure of a company’s overall performance by considering both profitability and capital efficiency. It helps assess the effectiveness of capital allocation decisions and the ability to generate returns on invested capital. Therefore, ROCE allows for meaningful comparisons between companies operating in different industries and highlights a company’s ability to generate profits from the capital it employs. Overall, return-based financial ratios provide investors with critical information that can help them make informed investment decisions. It is essential to analyze these ratios along with other financial and non-financial metrics to gain a holistic view of a company’s performance and future prospects.

Return on capital employed (ROCE): Definition and how to calculate

A key metric is Return on Invested Capital which is net operating income divided by invested capital. Since ROCE is based on past financial data, it could not accurately reflect current market circumstances or growth possibilities. It is a reflection of previous capital investments’ success and may not be a reliable predictor of future profitability or the potential effects of new investments. In addition, the effect of a company’s capital structure, such as debt or equity financing, is not taken into account by ROCE. A profitability ratio called ROCE determines how much profit a company may make with the capital it has on hand.


While the ROIC considers all of the activities a company undertakes to generate a profit, the return on investment (ROI) focuses on a single activity. You get the ROI by dividing the profit from that single activity (gain – cost) by the cost of the investment. A major downside of this metric is that it tells nothing about what segment of the business is generating value. If you make your calculation based on net income (minus dividends) instead of NOPAT, the result can be even more opaque, since the return may derive from a single, non-recurring event.

Comparing a company’s ROIC with its weighted average cost of capital (WACC) reveals whether invested capital is being used effectively. As you can see, Sam & Co. is a much larger business than ACE Corp., with higher revenue, EBIT, and total assets. However, when using the ROCE metric, you can see that ACE Corp. is more efficiently generating profit from its capital than Sam & Co. ACE ROCE is 44 cents per capital dollar or 43.51% vs. 15 cents per capital dollar for Sam & Co., or 15.47%.

Investors can use additional scores and information about a company’s typical cash balances and dividends to help decide on an investment strategy. ROCE is best used when comparing companies in capital-intensive sectors, such as utilities and telecoms, because, unlike other fundamentals, ROCE considers debt and other liabilities as well. These differences in the way industries perform haven’t changed substantially over time. In Exhibit 2, the ROIC ranking, based on the ranking for 1963 to 2004 as a whole, largely mirrors the average for the period from 1995 to 2004. In general, the persistence of differences in ROIC across sectors suggests that individual companies should be benchmarked against comparable ones operating in similar or adjacent industries. Return on investment (ROI) is a measure of the total return on an investment regardless of its source of financing.

Return on capital employed (ROCE) is a useful financial metric for evaluating a company, but like most financial ratios, it has some limitations. So you’ll want to consider ROCE in conjunction with other roce and roic financial ratios such as ROIC and ROE to generate the fullest picture of the company. This information is educational, and is not an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any security.

Next, we’ll calculate the invested capital, which represents the net operating assets used to generate cash flow. The return on invested capital (ROIC) is one method to determine whether or not a company has a defensible economic moat. The calculation of NOPAT is relatively straightforward since EBIT (or “operating income”) is taxed as if there is no debt in the company’s capital structure (and, thus, no interest expense). The ROIC ratio quantifies the profits that the company can generate for each dollar of capital invested in the company in a percentage. ROCE measures the Return a Company Generates from its Total Capital Employed, Including both Equity and Debt. Since ROCE doesn’t include long term liabilities such as pension liabilities in its capital employed formula, the large amount of pension liabilities on UPS’s balance sheet doesn’t boost its ROCE.

It shows how efficiently a company is using the equity it has received from its shareholders to generate profits. ROIC measures the return a company generates from the money invested in the business by both equity and debt investors. It shows how well a company is utilizing the money it has received from its investors. ROCE also considers the capital that the company uses for activities other than income generation. As a result, the return on invested capital takes into account only the capital invested and actively used by the company in producing goods and services.

If ROIC is greater than a firm’s weighted average cost of capital (WACC)—the most commonly used cost of capital metric—value is being created and these firms will trade at a premium. A common benchmark for evidence of value creation is a return of two percentage points above the firm’s cost of capital. An investment can have the same ROI and yet one can provide that return in a year, while another takes a decade.

Some analysts prefer ROCE over return on equity and return on assets because the return on capital considers both debt and equity financing. These investors believe the return on capital is a better gauge for the performance or profitability of a company over a more extended period of time. ROCE also serves as a useful management tool for assessing the performance of different business units or projects within a company. It helps identify areas where capital may be tied up inefficiently and allows for better decision-making regarding resource allocation and investment strategies. More specifically, ROCE provides a long-term perspective on a company’s profitability and efficiency.

Explore India’s game-changing budget, investing ₹1 trillion in sunrise sectors, with a spotlight on Artificial Intelli… Enhance your financial knowledge with our expert-curated list of the Top 10 Books for Financial Literacy. Debt + Equity – Current Liabilities is the formula for calculating capital utilised in the denominator. Conversely, if operating liabilities were to increase, ROIC would increase because NWC is lower. If the ROIC is higher than the WACC, that means the company creates positive value, whereas if the ROIC is lower than the WACC, that means the company’s value is declining. The NOPAT margin – NOPAT as a percentage of revenue – expanded from 17.5% in Year 0 to 23.3% in Year 5.

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