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Return on Invested Capital

Analyzing Firms

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Return on Invested Capital displays the firm’s ability to use invested capital to attain a return. It measures the value that a firm creates. ROIC does this differently than ROA or ROE.

Calculation Methods

There are multiple methods of calculating Return on Invested Capital. Each variation changes the numerator slightly, or completely. The denominator may also change.

Before Comparing Return on Invested Capital between multiple firms, make sure the same method has been used for each firm. If you are given ROIC as a statistic but are unsure how it was created, recalculating using your preferred method is recommended. Your new numbers allow you to confidently compare firms industry-wide.

Note: The first 2 methods utilize Net Income, while the third uses Net Operating Profit after Taxes. Utilizing Net Income creates financial issues for analysts. If you’re seeking company returns on invested capital, your primary desire is repeated returns based on firm operations, since this area will actually be delivering repeatable increases in firm value. Net Income includes one-off gains and unrepeatable or non-operational sources of income, reducing the effectiveness of ROIC. This being stated, net income is often used in Return on Invested Capital calculation. These formulas are presented in methods one and two. Net Operating Profit after Taxes only includes operational income and is presented in method three.

The third method uses investment capital instead of adding debt plus equity. The addition of debt plus equity occurs due to the correct assumption that all assets are funding from debt and equity. This approach does have a significant issue: it includes assets which may not be generating operational income.

Method 1: Net Income after Tax

The first method of Return on Invested Capital calculation uses Net Income and subtracts taxes.

The denominator utilizes Total Equity plus Total Long-Term Debt to acquire Investment Capital.

Method 2: Net Income after Dividends

The second Method of Return on Invested Capital calculation uses Net income and subtracts dividends.

The denominator utilizes Total Equity plus Total Long-Term Debt to acquire Investment Capital.

Method 3: NOPAT

The third method of calculating Return on Invested Capital uses “Net Operating Profit after Taxes” divided by “Invested Capital” or “Total Capital”. This method is more complicated than the previous 2 methods and subject to some assumptions but attempts to exclude non-operation income.

Net Operating Profit After Taxes
The Numerator of the equation is called the Net Operating Profit after Taxes. The denominator requires knowing operating income, also known as Earnings before Income and Taxes, which is the formula below:

Net Operating Profit after Taxes attempts to exclude income sources that are not from operations and strips away interest expenses. The numerator can use either Operating Income or Earnings before Interest and Taxes, then multiplies the number by one minus the firm’s tax rate. Note you will need the firm’s tax rate to calculate this variation. In America, this is typically 35%, but you should always check the company’s footnotes for actual rates. You may find they pay higher or lower, depending on subsidies, exclusions, penalties, or refunds. Always ensure that you have identified their actual tax rate.

The denominator of the equation is another way of calculating Invested Capital. This may give a drastically different result than the other 2 Denominator methods.

This section of Return on Invested Capital represents all cash invested by debt or shareholders invested in the company. Finding Investment Capital only seems complicated. Starting with Total Assets, first strip away any current liabilities that do not have an interest penalty. These would include things such as accounts payable, taxes payable, or accrued liabilities. Cash which is not needed for operations is stripped from the company. This is fairly assumptive, estimating the precise amount of cash needed for operations is difficult. Lastly, goodwill is removed if it is an extremely large percentage of the asset base. Goodwill is removed since it can cause a significant distortion to financial assets.

By removing interest and debt related distortions, return on invested capital separates itself from return on assets or equity. It also removes effects of financing decisions. This focuses on the core business. The results are interpreted the same as ROE and ROA, higher is better when comparing between firms. You always pay attention to the trend more than the numbers. Trending ROIC represents operational successes or failures: Upwards indicates operations or capital utilization success, declines indicate problems with operations or competition eroding the firm’s customer base.

You may notice this version subtracts goodwill. In actuality, you should calculate Return on Invested Capital with and without goodwill. Firms with frequent Acquisitions will have substantial differences between ROIC when goodwill is included or excluded. A firm which creates value or is trending upwards without goodwill when compared with their cost of capital may actually be losing or trending downwards when including goodwill. In addition, Return on Invested Capital comparisons amongst competitors may change positions when goodwill is included or excluded.


You also will compare Return on Invested Capital to the Weighted Average Cost of Capital. The Weighted Average Cost of Capital is the minimum rate of return required for a firm. It is the true cost that it incurred to acquire the capital, to begin with. Weighted Average Cost of Capital must be exceeded by Return on Invested Capital for a firm to create value. If a firm does not exceed their measurement, they have destroyed value or created no true return. The difference between these two is referred to as the ROIC/WACC spread. You must always carefully monitor this spread. Be aware that it determines the amount of value created or lost.

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