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Are Computershare Limited’s (ASX:CPU) Returns On Investment Worth Your While?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Computershare Limited (ASX:CPU) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared 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 measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its 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?

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 Computershare:

0.11 = US$450m ÷ (US$4.9b - US$835m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

Therefore, Computershare has an ROCE of 11%.

Check out our latest analysis for Computershare

Does Computershare Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. We can see Computershare's ROCE is around the 12% average reported by 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.

You can see in the image below how Computershare's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

ASX:CPU Past Revenue and Net Income May 11th 2020

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 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.

Computershare's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they 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 current liabilities of US$835m and total assets of US$4.9b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 17% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From 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.

Computershare is not the only stock insiders are buying. So take a peek at this free list of growing companies with insider buying.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.