U.S. Markets closed

Is Citi Trends, Inc. (NASDAQ:CTRN) Better Than Average At Deploying Capital?

Andrew Carroll

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and you could win a $250 gift card!

Today we’ll look at Citi Trends, Inc. (NASDAQ:CTRN) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 Citi Trends:

0.12 = US$22m ÷ (US$300m – US$96m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to November 2018.)

So, Citi Trends has an ROCE of 12%.

View our latest analysis for Citi Trends

Is Citi Trends’s ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Citi Trends’s ROCE is around the 13% average reported by the Specialty Retail industry. Separate from Citi Trends’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

NASDAQGS:CTRN Last Perf February 8th 19

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. If Citi Trends is cyclical, it could make sense to check out this free graph of past earnings, revenue and cash flow.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Citi Trends’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.

Citi Trends has total liabilities of US$96m and total assets of US$300m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 32% of its total assets. With this level of current liabilities, Citi Trends’s ROCE is boosted somewhat.

Our Take On Citi Trends’s ROCE

While its ROCE looks good, it’s worth remembering that the current liabilities are making the business look better. You might be able to find a better buy than Citi Trends. 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).

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

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.