Equifax Inc.’s (NYSE:EFX) Investment Returns Are Lagging Its Industry

Today we are going to look at Equifax Inc. (NYSE:EFX) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. In particular, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, ROCE 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 Equifax:

0.085 = US$825m ÷ (US$7.1b – US$744m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, Equifax has an ROCE of 8.5%.

Check out our latest analysis for Equifax

Does Equifax Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, Equifax’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 12% average reported by the Professional Services industry. 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, Equifax’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.

Equifax’s current ROCE of 8.5% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 18%, 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

NYSE:EFX Last Perf December 21st 18
NYSE:EFX Last Perf December 21st 18

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. You can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Equifax’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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Equifax has total liabilities of US$744m and total assets of US$7.1b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 10% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From Equifax’s ROCE

With that in mind, we’re not overly impressed with Equifax’s ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. The ROCE can give us an idea of the quality of a business, but we need to look deeper if we are considering a purchase. One data point to check is if insiders have bought shares recently.

But note: Equifax may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with high ROE and low debt.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.