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Should You Care About Netflix, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:NFLX) Investment Potential?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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. 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 measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed 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'.

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 Netflix:

0.08 = US$1.9b ÷ (US$30b - US$6.9b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Netflix has an ROCE of 8.0%.

Check out our latest analysis for Netflix

Does Netflix Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Netflix's ROCE appears to be around the 8.4% average of the Entertainment industry. Aside from the industry comparison, Netflix'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 Netflix currently has an ROCE of 8.0%, compared to its ROCE of 3.4% 3 years ago. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly. The image below shows how Netflix's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGS:NFLX Past Revenue and Net Income, October 14th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Netflix'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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Netflix has total liabilities of US$6.9b and total assets of US$30b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 23% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From Netflix's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Netflix's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. You might be able to find a better investment than Netflix. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

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.