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Robert Half International Inc. (NYSE:RHI) Earns Among The Best Returns In Its Industry

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Today we are going to look at Robert Half International Inc. (NYSE:RHI) 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. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Understanding 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. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since 'No two businesses are exactly alike.'

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 Robert Half International:

0.46 = US$599m ÷ (US$2.2b - US$901m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Robert Half International has an ROCE of 46%.

Check out our latest analysis for Robert Half International

Is Robert Half International's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Robert Half International's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 12% average in the Professional Services 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, Robert Half International's ROCE is currently very good.

You can see in the image below how Robert Half International's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:RHI Past Revenue and Net Income, July 12th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Robert Half International.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Robert Half International's 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Robert Half International has total liabilities of US$901m and total assets of US$2.2b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 41% of its total assets. Robert Half International's ROCE is boosted somewhat by its middling amount of current liabilities.

What We Can Learn From Robert Half International's ROCE

Still, it has a high ROCE, and may be an interesting prospect for further research. There might be better investments than Robert Half International 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.

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.