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Here’s What F5 Networks, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:FFIV) ROCE Can Tell Us

Joel Foster

Today we’ll evaluate F5 Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:FFIV) 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, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting 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. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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 F5 Networks:

0.37 = US$609m ÷ (US$2.6b – US$954m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, F5 Networks has an ROCE of 37%.

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Does F5 Networks Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, we find that F5 Networks’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 7.5% average in the Communications industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Putting aside its position relative to its industry for now, in absolute terms, F5 Networks’s ROCE is currently very good.


NasdaqGS:FFIV Last Perf January 15th 19

Remember that this metric is backwards looking – it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. 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 F5 Networks.

How F5 Networks’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. 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.

F5 Networks has total assets of US$2.6b and current liabilities of US$954m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 37% of its total assets. F5 Networks’s ROCE is boosted somewhat by its middling amount of current liabilities.

What We Can Learn From F5 Networks’s ROCE

Despite this, it reports a high ROCE, and may be worth investigating further. But note: F5 Networks 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 F5 Networks better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.