Here’s What Robert Walters plc’s (LON:RWA) ROCE Can Tell Us

Today we’ll evaluate Robert Walters plc (LON:RWA) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. In particular, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since ‘No two businesses are exactly alike.’

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

The formula for calculating the return on capital employed is:

Return on Capital Employed = Earnings Before Interest and Tax (EBIT) ÷ (Total Assets – Current Liabilities)

Or for Robert Walters:

0.24 = UK£51m ÷ (UK£439m – UK£224m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Robert Walters has an ROCE of 24%.

View our latest analysis for Robert Walters

Does Robert Walters Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, Robert Walters’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 19% average in the Professional Services industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Setting aside the comparison to its industry for a moment, Robert Walters’s ROCE in absolute terms currently looks quite high.

LSE:RWA Past Revenue and Net Income, August 14th 2019
LSE:RWA Past Revenue and Net Income, August 14th 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Robert Walters.

Do Robert Walters’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Robert Walters has total assets of UK£439m and current liabilities of UK£224m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 51% of its total assets. Robert Walters boasts an attractive ROCE, even after considering the boost from high current liabilities.

What We Can Learn From Robert Walters’s ROCE

So we would be interested in doing more research here — there may be an opportunity! There might be better investments than Robert Walters out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

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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.

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. Thank you for reading.