U.S. Markets close in 56 mins

What Can We Make Of The Hackett Group, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:HCKT) High Return On Capital?

Seth Doty

Want to participate in a short research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and receive a $20 prize!

Today we’ll look at The Hackett Group, Inc. (NASDAQ:HCKT) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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.

First up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared 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. 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 Hackett Group:

0.27 = US$37m ÷ (US$181m – US$44m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Hackett Group has an ROCE of 27%.

Check out our latest analysis for Hackett Group

Is Hackett Group’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Hackett Group’s ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 10% average in the IT 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, Hackett Group’s ROCE is currently very good.

In our analysis, Hackett Group’s ROCE appears to be 27%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 21%. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NasdaqGS:HCKT Past Revenue and Net Income, February 21st 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Hackett Group.

Hackett Group’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Hackett Group has total liabilities of US$44m and total assets of US$181m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 24% of its total assets. A minimal amount of current liabilities limits the impact on ROCE.

Our Take On Hackett Group’s ROCE

Low current liabilities and high ROCE is a good combination, making Hackett Group look quite interesting. You might be able to find a better buy than Hackett Group. 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).

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.