Why You Should Care About USU Software AG’s (ETR:OSP2) Low Return On Capital

Today we’ll evaluate USU Software AG (ETR:OSP2) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 USU Software:

0.046 = €3.0m ÷ (€95m – €30m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, USU Software has an ROCE of 4.6%.

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Does USU Software Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see USU Software’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Software industry average of 8.8%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Aside from the industry comparison, USU Software’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

As we can see, USU Software currently has an ROCE of 4.6%, less than the 11% it reported 3 years ago. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently.

XTRA:OSP2 Past Revenue and Net Income, May 18th 2019
XTRA:OSP2 Past Revenue and Net Income, May 18th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. 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 USU Software.

USU Software’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. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

USU Software has total assets of €95m and current liabilities of €30m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 31% of its total assets. USU Software’s middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

Our Take On USU Software’s ROCE

Despite this, its ROCE is still mediocre, and you may find more appealing investments elsewhere. You might be able to find a better investment than USU Software. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

I will like USU Software better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.