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Is Gartner, Inc.'s (NYSE:IT) Capital Allocation Ability Worth Your Time?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Gartner, Inc. (NYSE:IT) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, 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. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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'.

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 Gartner:

0.09 = US$379m ÷ (US$6.7b - US$2.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Gartner has an ROCE of 9.0%.

View our latest analysis for Gartner

Does Gartner Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. It appears that Gartner's ROCE is fairly close to the IT industry average of 10%. Separate from how Gartner 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.

Gartner's current ROCE of 9.0% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 40% ROCE. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds. The image below shows how Gartner's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:IT Past Revenue and Net Income, November 4th 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 Gartner.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Gartner'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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Gartner has total assets of US$6.7b and current liabilities of US$2.5b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 38% of its total assets. Gartner's middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

What We Can Learn From Gartner's ROCE

With this level of liabilities and a mediocre ROCE, there are potentially better investments out there. You might be able to find a better investment than Gartner. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.