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Here's What Career Education Corporation's (NASDAQ:CECO) ROCE Can Tell Us

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Career Education Corporation (NASDAQ:CECO) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. 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 metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since 'No two businesses are exactly alike.'

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 Career Education:

0.27 = US$116m ÷ (US$562m - US$128m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Career Education has an ROCE of 27%.

View our latest analysis for Career Education

Is Career Education's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, Career Education's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 9.4% average in the Consumer Services industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Setting aside the comparison to its industry for a moment, Career Education's ROCE in absolute terms currently looks quite high.

In our analysis, Career Education's ROCE appears to be 27%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 10%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. The image below shows how Career Education's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGS:CECO Past Revenue and Net Income, September 12th 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Career Education.

How Career Education's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

Career Education has total assets of US$562m and current liabilities of US$128m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 23% of its total assets. A minimal amount of current liabilities limits the impact on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Career Education's ROCE

Low current liabilities and high ROCE is a good combination, making Career Education look quite interesting. Career Education shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

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.