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Should You Like Mastercard Incorporated’s (NYSE:MA) High Return On Capital Employed?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Mastercard Incorporated (NYSE:MA) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect 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. 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.'

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 Mastercard:

0.59 = US$8.9b ÷ (US$25b - US$9.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Mastercard has an ROCE of 59%.

View our latest analysis for Mastercard

Does Mastercard Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, we find that Mastercard's ROCE is meaningfully better than the 9.9% average in the IT industry. I think that's good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Putting aside its position relative to its industry for now, in absolute terms, Mastercard's ROCE is currently very good.

The image below shows how Mastercard's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:MA Past Revenue and Net Income, August 21st 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. Companies in cyclical industries can be difficult to understand using ROCE, as returns typically look high during boom times, and low during busts. 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 Mastercard.

Do Mastercard'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. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Mastercard has total liabilities of US$9.5b and total assets of US$25b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 38% of its total assets. A medium level of current liabilities boosts Mastercard's ROCE somewhat.

What We Can Learn From Mastercard's ROCE

Despite this, it reports a high ROCE, and may be worth investigating further. There might be better investments than Mastercard 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.

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.