How Do CoStar Group, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:CSGP) Returns On Capital Compare To Peers?

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Today we’ll evaluate CoStar Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSGP) 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. 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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’.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 CoStar Group:

0.094 = US$315m ÷ (US$3.5b – US$198m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, CoStar Group has an ROCE of 9.4%.

Check out our latest analysis for CoStar Group

Does CoStar Group Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, CoStar Group’s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 12% average in the Professional Services industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Separate from how CoStar Group stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

As we can see, CoStar Group currently has an ROCE of 9.4% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 2.3%. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly.

NasdaqGS:CSGP Past Revenue and Net Income, May 3rd 2019
NasdaqGS:CSGP Past Revenue and Net Income, May 3rd 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.

Do CoStar Group’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. 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.

CoStar Group has total liabilities of US$198m and total assets of US$3.5b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 5.6% of its total assets. CoStar Group reports few current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its unremarkable ROCE.

The Bottom Line On CoStar Group’s ROCE

If performance improves, then CoStar Group may be an OK investment, especially at the right valuation. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.