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Here’s What Medidata Solutions, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:MDSO) Return On Capital Can Tell Us

Simply Wall St

Today we’ll look at Medidata Solutions, Inc. (NASDAQ:MDSO) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the ‘return’ (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Medidata Solutions:

0.069 = US$51m ÷ (US$913m – US$171m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Medidata Solutions has an ROCE of 6.9%.

Check out our latest analysis for Medidata Solutions

Does Medidata Solutions Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. It appears that Medidata Solutions’s ROCE is fairly close to the Healthcare Services industry average of 8.5%. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Medidata Solutions’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Our data shows that Medidata Solutions currently has an ROCE of 6.9%, compared to its ROCE of 5.2% 3 years ago. This makes us think the business might be improving.

NasdaqGS:MDSO Past Revenue and Net Income, March 5th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Medidata Solutions.

Medidata Solutions’s Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Medidata Solutions has total liabilities of US$171m and total assets of US$913m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 19% of its total assets. It is good to see a restrained amount of current liabilities, as this limits the effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Medidata Solutions’s ROCE

That said, Medidata Solutions’s ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.