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Are Collectors Universe, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:CLCT) High Returns Really That Great?

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll evaluate Collectors Universe, Inc. (NASDAQ:CLCT) 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. 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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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 Collectors Universe:

0.44 = US$9.3m ÷ (US$33m - US$12m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Collectors Universe has an ROCE of 44%.

Check out our latest analysis for Collectors Universe

Does Collectors Universe Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, we find that Collectors Universe's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 11% average in the Consumer Services industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Collectors Universe's ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

Collectors Universe's current ROCE of 44% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 68% ROCE. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NasdaqGM:CLCT Past Revenue and Net Income, April 3rd 2019

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 Collectors Universe 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 Collectors Universe's 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 the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Collectors Universe has total liabilities of US$12m and total assets of US$33m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 35% of its total assets. A medium level of current liabilities boosts Collectors Universe's ROCE somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Collectors Universe's ROCE

Still, it has a high ROCE, and may be an interesting prospect for further research. You might be able to find a better buy than Collectors Universe. 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).

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.