U.S. Markets open in 1 hr 34 mins

eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY) Earns A Nice Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at eBay Inc. (NASDAQ:EBAY) 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.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed 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?

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 eBay:

0.15 = US$2.5b ÷ (US$21b - US$5.2b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, eBay has an ROCE of 15%.

View our latest analysis for eBay

Does eBay Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In our analysis, eBay's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 8.4% average in the Online Retail industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Regardless of where eBay sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how eBay's past growth compares to other companies.

NasdaqGS:EBAY Past Revenue and Net Income, August 21st 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for eBay.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect eBay's 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

eBay has total assets of US$21b and current liabilities of US$5.2b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 25% of its total assets. A fairly low level of current liabilities is not influencing the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From eBay's ROCE

With that in mind, eBay's ROCE appears pretty good. eBay 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 eBay 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.