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Shareholders Should Look Hard At PFSweb, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:PFSW) 6.9% Return On Capital

David Rizzo

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Today we are going to look at PFSweb, Inc. (NASDAQ:PFSW) 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, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Last but not least, we’ll look at what impact its current liabilities have on 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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’.

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 PFSweb:

0.069 = US$598k ÷ (US$154m – US$62m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2018.)

Therefore, PFSweb has an ROCE of 6.9%.

See our latest analysis for PFSweb

Is PFSweb’s ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. We can see PFSweb’s ROCE is meaningfully below the IT industry average of 10%. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Aside from the industry comparison, PFSweb’s ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

As we can see, PFSweb currently has an ROCE of 6.9% compared to its ROCE 3 years ago, which was 2.6%. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NasdaqCM:PFSW Past Revenue and Net Income, February 19th 2019

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

PFSweb’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. 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

PFSweb has total assets of US$154m and current liabilities of US$62m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 40% of its total assets. PFSweb’s ROCE is improved somewhat by its moderate amount of current liabilities.

Our Take On PFSweb’s ROCE

Despite this, its ROCE is still mediocre, and you may find more appealing investments elsewhere. But note: PFSweb may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

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. On rare occasion, data errors may occur. Thank you for reading.