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Don’t Buy Shutterstock, Inc. (NYSE:SSTK) Until You Understand Its ROCE

Simply Wall St

Today we’ll look at Shutterstock, Inc. (NYSE:SSTK) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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 metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Shutterstock:

0.11 = US$32m ÷ (US$531m – US$223m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Shutterstock has an ROCE of 11%.

See our latest analysis for Shutterstock

Does Shutterstock Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Shutterstock’s ROCE appears to be around the 11% average of the Online Retail industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Shutterstock’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

NYSE:SSTK Past Revenue and Net Income, March 7th 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 only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Shutterstock.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Shutterstock’s ROCE?

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Shutterstock has total liabilities of US$223m and total assets of US$531m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 42% of its total assets. Shutterstock’s middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

What We Can Learn From Shutterstock’s ROCE

Despite this, its ROCE is still mediocre, and you may find more appealing investments elsewhere. But note: Shutterstock may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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

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.