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Today we'll evaluate Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG.L) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.
Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.
Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?
ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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'.
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 Alphabet:
0.16 = US$31b ÷ (US$233b - US$35b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)
Therefore, Alphabet has an ROCE of 16%.
Does Alphabet Have A Good ROCE?
ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Alphabet's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 10% average in the Interactive Media and Services industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Separate from Alphabet's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.
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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Alphabet.
Alphabet'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. 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.
Alphabet has total liabilities of US$35b and total assets of US$233b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 15% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.
The Bottom Line On Alphabet's ROCE
Overall, Alphabet has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. Alphabet shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.
If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.