SEEK Limited (ASX:SEK) Might Not Be A Great Investment

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Today we’ll evaluate SEEK Limited (ASX:SEK) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 SEEK:

0.12 = AU$354m ÷ (AU$3.8b – AU$764m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

So, SEEK has an ROCE of 12%.

See our latest analysis for SEEK

Does SEEK Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, SEEK’s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 18% average in the Professional Services industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Independently of how SEEK compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

ASX:SEK Last Perf February 5th 19
ASX:SEK Last Perf February 5th 19

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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect SEEK’s 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 the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

SEEK has total assets of AU$3.8b and current liabilities of AU$764m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 20% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On SEEK’s ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, SEEK could be worth a closer look. But note: SEEK may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.