U.S. Markets closed

Should RealPage, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:RP) Weak Investment Returns Worry You?

Simply Wall St

Want to participate in a research study? Help shape the future of investing tools and earn a $60 gift card!

Today we are going to look at RealPage, Inc. (NASDAQ:RP) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, 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.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

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. 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'.

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 RealPage:

0.045 = US$76m ÷ (US$2.1b - US$412m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, RealPage has an ROCE of 4.5%.

Check out our latest analysis for RealPage

Does RealPage Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see RealPage's ROCE is meaningfully below the Software industry average of 9.1%. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Regardless of how RealPage stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is quite low (especially compared to a bank account). There are potentially more appealing investments elsewhere.

In our analysis, RealPage's ROCE appears to be 4.5%, compared to 3 years ago, when its ROCE was 2.5%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NasdaqGS:RP Past Revenue and Net Income, April 2nd 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for RealPage.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect RealPage's 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 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

RealPage has total assets of US$2.1b and current liabilities of US$412m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 20% 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 RealPage's ROCE

That's not a bad thing, however RealPage has a weak ROCE and may not be an attractive investment. 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.

I will like RealPage 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.