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Is Computershare Limited (ASX:CPU) Creating Value For Shareholders?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Computershare Limited (ASX:CPU) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding 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. 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?

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 Computershare:

0.12 = US$475m ÷ (US$4.7b - US$701m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Computershare has an ROCE of 12%.

View our latest analysis for Computershare

Does Computershare Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Computershare's ROCE appears to be around the 15% average of the IT industry. Separate from Computershare's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

Our data shows that Computershare currently has an ROCE of 12%, compared to its ROCE of 8.8% 3 years ago. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly. The image below shows how Computershare's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

ASX:CPU Past Revenue and Net Income, October 13th 2019

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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Computershare.

How Computershare's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that need to be paid within 12 months. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Computershare has total assets of US$4.7b and current liabilities of US$701m. 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.

Our Take On Computershare's ROCE

Overall, Computershare has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. There might be better investments than Computershare out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.