Should You Care About Medidata Solutions, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:MDSO) Investment Potential?

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Today we are going to look at Medidata Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ:MDSO) 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 up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

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

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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.’

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 Medidata Solutions:

0.081 = US$60m ÷ (US$868m – US$162m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, Medidata Solutions has an ROCE of 8.1%.

View our latest analysis for Medidata Solutions

Is Medidata Solutions’s ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Medidata Solutions’s ROCE appears to be around the 8.1% average of the Healthcare Services industry. Separate from how Medidata Solutions stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

In our analysis, Medidata Solutions’s ROCE appears to be 8.1%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 5.1%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NASDAQGS:MDSO Last Perf February 8th 19
NASDAQGS:MDSO Last Perf February 8th 19

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Medidata Solutions.

Do Medidata Solutions’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 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Medidata Solutions has total liabilities of US$162m and total assets of US$868m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 19% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Medidata Solutions’s ROCE

If Medidata Solutions continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. 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.

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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.