How Do WageWorks, Inc.’s (NYSE:WAGE) Returns On Capital Compare To Peers?

Today we’ll evaluate WageWorks, Inc. (NYSE:WAGE) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

First up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 WageWorks:

0.064 = US$58m ÷ (US$1.7b – US$763m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, WageWorks has an ROCE of 6.4%.

See our latest analysis for WageWorks

Is WageWorks’s ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, WageWorks’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 12% average reported by the Professional Services industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, WageWorks’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.

WageWorks’s current ROCE of 6.4% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 9.1%, 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

NYSE:WAGE Past Revenue and Net Income, March 25th 2019
NYSE:WAGE Past Revenue and Net Income, March 25th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for WageWorks.

WageWorks’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

WageWorks has total liabilities of US$763m and total assets of US$1.7b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 45% of its total assets. WageWorks’s ROCE is improved somewhat by its moderate amount of current liabilities.

Our Take On WageWorks’s ROCE

Unfortunately, its ROCE is still uninspiring, and there are potentially more attractive prospects out there. 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.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.