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Does Secoo Holding Limited (NASDAQ:SECO) Create Value For Shareholders?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Secoo Holding Limited (NASDAQ:SECO) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. 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?

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 Secoo Holding:

0.078 = CN¥236m ÷ (CN¥4.5b - CN¥1.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Secoo Holding has an ROCE of 7.8%.

View our latest analysis for Secoo Holding

Is Secoo Holding's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Secoo Holding's ROCE is around the 7.7% average reported by the Online Retail industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Secoo Holding's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Secoo Holding has an ROCE of 7.8%, but it didn't have an ROCE 3 years ago, since it was unprofitable. That suggests the business has returned to profitability. The image below shows how Secoo Holding's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGM:SECO Past Revenue and Net Income, January 14th 2020

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Secoo Holding.

How Secoo Holding's Current Liabilities Impact 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. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Secoo Holding has total liabilities of CN¥1.5b and total assets of CN¥4.5b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 33% of its total assets. Secoo Holding has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost its ROCE somewhat.

The Bottom Line On Secoo Holding's ROCE

Unfortunately, its ROCE is still uninspiring, and there are potentially more attractive prospects out there. You might be able to find a better investment than Secoo Holding. 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.

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.