The “return on assets” is an unsatisfactory profit level indicator (PLI) for the “transactional” net margin and comparable profits methods in transfer pricing because (among other major defects) self-developed intangibles are excluded from the assets base denominator. Assets are also composed of heterogeneous balance sheet accounts with different depreciation rates.
Operating assets are “solid, massy, hard” and cannot be moved from one company to another within the same industry (horizontal market consolidation) or across companies in different industries (vertical market consolidation), without a time-consuming assets purchase agreement. Moreover, if the intra-company assets transfers are large, anti-trust regulatory impediments may occur.
The idea that “return on assets” is a superior PLI because of its fluent or gravitation properties is not consistent with reality. This dubious return on assets sobriquet is posited as a matter of faith because to our knowledge economics is devoid of rigorous demonstrations of the conditions required for such gravitation to occur in actual industries dominated by oligopoly groups.