Here’s What REA Group Limited’s (ASX:REA) ROCE Can Tell Us

Today we’ll evaluate REA Group Limited (ASX:REA) 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. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. Renowned investment researcher Michael Mauboussin has suggested that a high ROCE can indicate that ‘one dollar invested in the company generates value of more than one dollar’.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 REA Group:

0.41 = AU$462m ÷ (AU$1.5b – AU$389m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, REA Group has an ROCE of 41%.

Check out our latest analysis for REA Group

Is REA Group’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. REA Group’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 11% average in the Interactive Media and Services industry. I think that’s good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Putting aside its position relative to its industry for now, in absolute terms, REA Group’s ROCE is currently very good.

ASX:REA Past Revenue and Net Income, July 23rd 2019
ASX:REA Past Revenue and Net Income, July 23rd 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately 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 REA Group.

REA Group’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

REA Group has total assets of AU$1.5b and current liabilities of AU$389m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 26% of its total assets. This is quite a low level of current liabilities which would not greatly boost the already high ROCE.

Our Take On REA Group’s ROCE

This is good to see, and with such a high ROCE, REA Group may be worth a closer look. REA Group 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.

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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.