How Do American Software, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMSW.A) Returns Compare To Its Industry?

Today we’ll evaluate American Software, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMSW.A) 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.

Firstly, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. 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 is a measure of a company’s yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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 American Software:

0.058 = US$6.9m ÷ (US$161m – US$42m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to January 2019.)

Therefore, American Software has an ROCE of 5.8%.

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

View our latest analysis for American Software

Is American Software’s ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In this analysis, American Software’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 9.7% average reported by the Software industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Aside from the industry comparison, American Software’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

As we can see, American Software currently has an ROCE of 5.8%, less than the 14% it reported 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NasdaqGS:AMSW.A Past Revenue and Net Income, May 18th 2019
NasdaqGS:AMSW.A Past Revenue and Net Income, May 18th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the 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.

How American Software’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. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

American Software has total assets of US$161m and current liabilities of US$42m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 26% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From American Software’s ROCE

That said, American Software’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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

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.