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Does First Derivatives plc (LON:FDP) Create Value For Shareholders?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at First Derivatives plc (LON:FDP) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

First up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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'.

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 First Derivatives:

0.094 = UK£25m ÷ (UK£318m - UK£51m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to August 2019.)

So, First Derivatives has an ROCE of 9.4%.

Check out our latest analysis for First Derivatives

Is First Derivatives's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. It appears that First Derivatives's ROCE is fairly close to the Software industry average of 11%. Regardless of where First Derivatives sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

Our data shows that First Derivatives currently has an ROCE of 9.4%, compared to its ROCE of 6.7% 3 years ago. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how First Derivatives's past growth compares to other companies.

AIM:FDP Past Revenue and Net Income, November 30th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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.

First Derivatives's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

First Derivatives has total assets of UK£318m and current liabilities of UK£51m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 16% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

The Bottom Line On First Derivatives's ROCE

Overall, First Derivatives has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. First Derivatives shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

I will like First Derivatives better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, 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.