AppFolio, Inc. (NASDAQ:APPF) Earns Among The Best Returns In Its Industry

Today we’ll evaluate AppFolio, Inc. (NASDAQ:APPF) 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.

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 measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from 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.’

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 AppFolio:

0.14 = US$21m ÷ (US$176m – US$28m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, AppFolio has an ROCE of 14%.

See our latest analysis for AppFolio

Does AppFolio Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In our analysis, AppFolio’s ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 9.3% average in the Software industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of where AppFolio sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

AppFolio delivered an ROCE of 14%, which is better than 3 years ago, as was making losses back then. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NasdaqGM:APPF Past Revenue and Net Income, March 15th 2019
NasdaqGM:APPF Past Revenue and Net Income, March 15th 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 AppFolio.

AppFolio’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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. 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.

AppFolio has total assets of US$176m and current liabilities of US$28m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 16% of its total assets. Current liabilities are minimal, limiting the impact on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From AppFolio’s ROCE

This is good to see, and with a sound ROCE, AppFolio could be worth a closer look. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than AppFolio. 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).

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.