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Is Laureate Education, Inc. (NASDAQ:LAUR) Struggling With Its 5.4% Return On Capital Employed?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Laureate Education, Inc. (NASDAQ:LAUR) 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.

First of all, we’ll work out how to 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 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. 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?

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 Laureate Education:

0.054 = US$304m ÷ (US$6.8b – US$1.2b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Laureate Education has an ROCE of 5.4%.

View our latest analysis for Laureate Education

Is Laureate Education’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In this analysis, Laureate Education’s ROCE appears meaningfully below the 10% average reported by the Consumer Services industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Independently of how Laureate Education compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

NasdaqGS:LAUR Past Revenue and Net Income, March 18th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Laureate Education’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. Due to the way ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Laureate Education has total liabilities of US$1.2b and total assets of US$6.8b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 18% of its total assets. With a very reasonable level of current liabilities, so the impact on ROCE is fairly minimal.

What We Can Learn From Laureate Education’s ROCE

Laureate Education has a poor ROCE, and there may be better investment prospects out there. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Laureate Education. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

I will like Laureate Education better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.