Are IPH Limited’s Returns On Capital Worth Investigating?

Today we’ll evaluate IPH Limited (ASX:IPH) 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.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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?

Analysts use this formula to calculate return on capital employed:

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

Or for IPH:

0.19 = AU$64m ÷ (AU$363m – AU$30m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, IPH has an ROCE of 19%.

Check out our latest analysis for IPH

Is IPH’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. It appears that IPH’s ROCE is fairly close to the Professional Services industry average of 19%. Separate from IPH’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

ASX:IPH Past Revenue and Net Income, July 31st 2019
ASX:IPH Past Revenue and Net Income, July 31st 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for IPH.

IPH’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

IPH has total assets of AU$363m and current liabilities of AU$30m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 8.3% of its total assets. Low current liabilities have only a minimal impact on IPH’s ROCE, making its decent returns more credible.

The Bottom Line On IPH’s ROCE

If it is able to keep this up, IPH could be attractive. IPH looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.