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Examining The Providence Service Corporation’s (NASDAQ:PRSC) Weak Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate The Providence Service Corporation (NASDAQ:PRSC) 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.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. 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 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. 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 Providence Service:

0.082 = US$36m ÷ (US$606m - US$161m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Providence Service has an ROCE of 8.2%.

See our latest analysis for Providence Service

Does Providence Service Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In this analysis, Providence Service's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 11% average reported by the Healthcare industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Providence Service's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

In our analysis, Providence Service's ROCE appears to be 8.2%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 5.2%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. The image below shows how Providence Service's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGS:PRSC Past Revenue and Net Income, September 17th 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Providence Service.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Providence Service'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.

Providence Service has total liabilities of US$161m and total assets of US$606m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 27% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

Our Take On Providence Service's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Providence Service's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. 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 Providence Service 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.