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InterDigital, Inc. (NASDAQ:IDCC) Might Not Be A Great Investment

Simply Wall St

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Today we are going to look at InterDigital, Inc. (NASDAQ:IDCC) 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. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. 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?

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 InterDigital:

0.043 = US$63m ÷ (US$1.6b - US$179m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, InterDigital has an ROCE of 4.3%.

Check out our latest analysis for InterDigital

Does InterDigital Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see InterDigital's ROCE is meaningfully below the Communications industry average of 8.2%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Independently of how InterDigital compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.

As we can see, InterDigital currently has an ROCE of 4.3%, less than the 19% it reported 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

NasdaqGS:IDCC Past Revenue and Net Income, April 1st 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for InterDigital.

How InterDigital's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

InterDigital has total liabilities of US$179m and total assets of US$1.6b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 11% of its total assets. With a very reasonable level of current liabilities, so the impact on ROCE is fairly minimal.

The Bottom Line On InterDigital's ROCE

While that is good to see, InterDigital has a low ROCE and does not look attractive in this analysis. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than InterDigital. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.