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A Close Look At QuinStreet, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:QNST) 13% ROCE

Arjun Bhatia

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Today we’ll evaluate QuinStreet, Inc. (NASDAQ:QNST) 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.

First, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from 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?

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 QuinStreet:

0.13 = US$16m ÷ (US$223m – US$66m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

So, QuinStreet has an ROCE of 13%.

View our latest analysis for QuinStreet

Does QuinStreet Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In our analysis, QuinStreet’s ROCE is meaningfully higher 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. Independently of how QuinStreet compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears decent, and the company may be worthy of closer investigation.

QuinStreet delivered an ROCE of 13%, which is better than 3 years ago, as was making losses back then. That implies the business has been improving.

NASDAQGS:QNST Last Perf February 1st 19

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. 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 only a point-in-time measure. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

QuinStreet’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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

QuinStreet has total liabilities of US$66m and total assets of US$223m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 30% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

The Bottom Line On QuinStreet’s ROCE

With that in mind, QuinStreet’s ROCE appears pretty good. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than QuinStreet. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.