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Do Baozun Inc.’s (NASDAQ:BZUN) Returns On Capital Employed Make The Cut?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Baozun Inc. (NASDAQ:BZUN) 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.

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 amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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.

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 Baozun:

0.089 = CN¥401m ÷ (CN¥6.2b - CN¥1.7b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Baozun has an ROCE of 8.9%.

View our latest analysis for Baozun

Does Baozun Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Baozun's ROCE appears to be around the 7.4% average of the Online Retail industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Baozun's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

Our data shows that Baozun currently has an ROCE of 8.9%, compared to its ROCE of 2.7% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can see in the image below how Baozun's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NasdaqGS:BZUN Past Revenue and Net Income, September 29th 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 Baozun.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Baozun's ROCE?

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Baozun has total assets of CN¥6.2b and current liabilities of CN¥1.7b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 28% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From Baozun's ROCE

If Baozun continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. 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).

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

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.