Is Hostelworld Group Plc (LON:HSW) Struggling With Its 6.5% Return On Capital Employed?

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Today we are going to look at Hostelworld Group Plc (LON:HSW) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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?

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 Hostelworld Group:

0.065 = €11m ÷ (€154m – €16m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

Therefore, Hostelworld Group has an ROCE of 6.5%.

See our latest analysis for Hostelworld Group

Is Hostelworld Group’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Hostelworld Group’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Online Retail industry average of 22%. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Aside from the industry comparison, Hostelworld Group’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

LSE:HSW Past Revenue and Net Income, February 22nd 2019
LSE:HSW Past Revenue and Net Income, February 22nd 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. 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 Hostelworld Group’s 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Hostelworld Group has total liabilities of €16m and total assets of €154m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 10% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Hostelworld Group’s ROCE

If Hostelworld Group continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. You might be able to find a better buy than Hostelworld Group. 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).

For those who like to find winning investments this free list 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 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.