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What Can We Make Of Hays plc’s (LON:HAS) High Return On Capital?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Hays plc (LON:HAS) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its 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. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since 'No two businesses are exactly alike.'

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 Hays:

0.35 = UK£248m ÷ (UK£1.5b - UK£786m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Hays has an ROCE of 35%.

Check out our latest analysis for Hays

Does Hays Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Hays's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 18% average in the Professional Services 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, Hays's ROCE is currently very good.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Hays's past growth compares to other companies.

LSE:HAS Past Revenue and Net Income, September 14th 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 only a point-in-time measure. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do Hays's Current Liabilities Skew Its 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Hays has total liabilities of UK£786m and total assets of UK£1.5b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 52% of its total assets. Hays's high level of current liabilities boost the ROCE - but its ROCE is still impressive.

The Bottom Line On Hays's ROCE

So we would be interested in doing more research here -- there may be an opportunity! There might be better investments than Hays out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

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.