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Is 51job, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:JOBS) 12% Return On Capital Employed Good News?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate 51job, Inc. (NASDAQ:JOBS) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. 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 is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested 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'.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 51job:

0.12 = CN¥1.2b ÷ (CN¥13b - CN¥2.6b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, 51job has an ROCE of 12%.

Check out our latest analysis for 51job

Is 51job's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see 51job's ROCE is around the 12% average reported by the Professional Services industry. Regardless of where 51job sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

You can see in the image below how 51job's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NasdaqGS:JOBS Past Revenue and Net Income, October 21st 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for 51job.

How 51job's Current Liabilities Impact 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

51job has total liabilities of CN¥2.6b and total assets of CN¥13b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 19% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

The Bottom Line On 51job's ROCE

Overall, 51job has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. 51job shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

I will like 51job better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.