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Equiniti Group plc’s (LON:EQN) Investment Returns Are Lagging Its Industry

Simply Wall St

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Today we'll evaluate Equiniti Group plc (LON:EQN) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Understanding 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. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Equiniti Group:

0.064 = UK£61m ÷ (UK£1.1b - UK£151m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Equiniti Group has an ROCE of 6.4%.

See our latest analysis for Equiniti Group

Does Equiniti Group Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Equiniti Group's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 12% average in the IT industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Separate from how Equiniti Group stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

LSE:EQN Past Revenue and Net Income, June 15th 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Equiniti Group.

Do Equiniti Group's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

Equiniti Group has total liabilities of UK£151m and total assets of UK£1.1b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 14% of its total assets. This very reasonable level of current liabilities would not boost the ROCE by much.

The Bottom Line On Equiniti Group's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Equiniti Group's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.