Today we are going to look at PetMed Express, Inc. (NASDAQ:PETS) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.
First, we’ll go over how we 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 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. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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 PetMed Express:
0.42 = US$52m ÷ (US$148m – US$17m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)
Therefore, PetMed Express has an ROCE of 42%.
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Is PetMed Express’s ROCE Good?
ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, we find that PetMed Express’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 9.1% average in the Online Retail industry. I think that’s good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, PetMed Express’s ROCE currently appears to be excellent.
Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for PetMed Express.
Do PetMed Express’s Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?
Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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.
PetMed Express has total liabilities of US$17m and total assets of US$148m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 12% of its total assets. The fairly low level of current liabilities won’t have much impact on the already great ROCE.
What We Can Learn From PetMed Express’s ROCE
With low current liabilities and a high ROCE, PetMed Express could be worthy of further investigation. You might be able to find a better buy than PetMed Express. 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).
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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 email@example.com.