ROA can be computed as:
This number tells you "what the company can do with what it's got", i.e. how many dollars of earnings they derive from each dollar of assets they control. It's a useful number for comparing competing companies in the same industry. The number will vary widely across different industries. Return on assets gives an indication of the capital intensity of the company, which will depend on the industry; companies that require large initial investments will generally have lower return on assets.
Return on assets is an indicator of how profitable a company is before leverage, and is compared with companies in the same industry. Since the figure for total assets of the company depends on the carrying value of the assets, some caution is required for companies whose carrying value may not correspond to the actual market value. Return on assets is a common figure used for comparing performance of financial institutions (such as banks), because the majority of their assets will have a carrying value that is close to their actual market value. Return on assets is not useful for comparisons between industries because of factors of scale and peculiar capital requirements (such as reserve requirements in the insurance and banking industries).
Return on assets is one of the elements used in financial analysis using the Du Pont Identity.