Today we'll look at IPH Limited (ASX:IPH) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.
Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)
ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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.'
How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?
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 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%.
Is IPH's ROCE Good?
One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. It appears that IPH's ROCE is fairly close to the Professional Services industry average of 19%. Independently of how IPH compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.
It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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 freereport on analyst forecasts for IPH.
IPH's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE
Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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.
IPH has total liabilities of AU$30m and total assets of AU$363m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 8.3% of its total assets. With low current liabilities, IPH's decent ROCE looks that much more respectable.
Our Take On IPH's ROCE
If IPH can continue reinvesting in its business, it could be an attractive prospect. 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.
For those who like to find winning investments this freelist of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
If you decide to trade IPH, use the lowest-cost* platform that is rated #1 Overall by Barron's, Interactive Brokers. Trade stocks, options, futures, forex, bonds and funds on 135 markets, all from a single integrated account.