Should You Worry About Yelp Inc.’s (NYSE:YELP) ROCE?

Today we’ll evaluate Yelp Inc. (NYSE:YELP) 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. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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?

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 Yelp:

0.038 = US$36m ÷ (US$1.1b – US$134m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

So, Yelp has an ROCE of 3.8%.

Check out our latest analysis for Yelp

Does Yelp Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see Yelp’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Interactive Media and Services industry average of 9.2%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Putting aside Yelp’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor – considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.

In our analysis, Yelp’s ROCE appears to be 3.8%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 0.2%. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly. The image below shows how Yelp’s ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:YELP Past Revenue and Net Income March 26th 2020
NYSE:YELP Past Revenue and Net Income March 26th 2020

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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

How Yelp’s Current Liabilities Impact 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 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Yelp has total assets of US$1.1b and current liabilities of US$134m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 13% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which will have a limited impact on the ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Yelp’s ROCE

While that is good to see, Yelp has a low ROCE and does not look attractive in this analysis. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Yelp. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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

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.

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. Thank you for reading.