Informa plc’s (LON:INF) Investment Returns Are Lagging Its Industry

Today we are going to look at Informa plc (LON:INF) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the 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. 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 Informa:

0.051 = UK£485m ÷ (UK£11b – UK£1.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Informa has an ROCE of 5.1%.

Check out our latest analysis for Informa

Is Informa’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Informa’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Media industry average of 8.5%. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Informa’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.

Informa’s current ROCE of 5.1% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 11%, 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

LSE:INF Past Revenue and Net Income, April 5th 2019
LSE:INF Past Revenue and Net Income, April 5th 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Informa.

Do Informa’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

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

Informa has total liabilities of UK£1.5b and total assets of UK£11b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 14% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Informa’s ROCE

With that in mind, we’re not overly impressed with Informa’s ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. But note: Informa 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).

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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.