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51job, Inc. (NASDAQ:JOBS) Earns A Nice Return On Capital Employed

Andy Nguyen

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Today we’ll look at 51job, Inc. (NASDAQ:JOBS) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into 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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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 51job:

0.15 = CN¥871m ÷ (CN¥12b – CN¥4.9b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, 51job has an ROCE of 15%.

View our latest analysis for 51job

Does 51job Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. 51job’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 12% average in the Professional Services industry. I think that’s good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Independently of how 51job compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

Our data shows that 51job currently has an ROCE of 15%, compared to its ROCE of 11% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NASDAQGS:JOBS Last Perf February 6th 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. 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.

51job’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

51job has total assets of CN¥12b and current liabilities of CN¥4.9b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 41% of its total assets. 51job has a middling amount of current liabilities, increasing its ROCE somewhat.

Our Take On 51job’s ROCE

With a decent ROCE, the company could be interesting, but remember that the level of current liabilities make the ROCE look better. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than 51job. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.