# Is Pacific Online Limited’s (HKG:543) 17% Return On Capital Employed Good News?

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Today we’ll look at Pacific Online Limited (HKG:543) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

### Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE is a measure of a company’s yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since ‘No two businesses are exactly alike.’

### So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Pacific Online:

0.17 = CN¥173m ÷ (CN¥1.4b – CN¥414m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Pacific Online has an ROCE of 17%.

### Is Pacific Online’s ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Pacific Online’s ROCE appears to be around the 15% average of the Interactive Media and Services industry. Regardless of where Pacific Online sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

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. You can check if Pacific Online has cyclical profits by looking at this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

### Do Pacific Online’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

Pacific Online has total liabilities of CN¥414m and total assets of CN¥1.4b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 29% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

### Our Take On Pacific Online’s ROCE

Overall, Pacific Online has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. Pacific Online 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.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.