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Is Baidu, Inc. (NASDAQ:BIDU) Struggling With Its 7.1% Return On Capital Employed?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll look at Baidu, Inc. (NASDAQ:BIDU) 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 Baidu:

0.071 = CN¥17b ÷ (CN¥298b - CN¥57b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Baidu has an ROCE of 7.1%.

View our latest analysis for Baidu

Does Baidu Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, Baidu's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 9.7% average reported by the Interactive Media and Services industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Baidu's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Baidu's current ROCE of 7.1% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 9.6%, 3 years ago. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently.

NasdaqGS:BIDU Past Revenue and Net Income, May 14th 2019

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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Baidu.

Baidu's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Baidu has total assets of CN¥298b and current liabilities of CN¥57b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 19% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Baidu's ROCE

If Baidu continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than Baidu. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

I will like Baidu 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.