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How Do SolarWinds Corporation’s (NYSE:SWI) Returns On Capital Compare To Peers?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at SolarWinds Corporation (NYSE:SWI) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we're going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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 SolarWinds:

0.028 = US$135m ÷ (US$5.3b - US$423m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

Therefore, SolarWinds has an ROCE of 2.8%.

See our latest analysis for SolarWinds

Is SolarWinds's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. We can see SolarWinds's ROCE is meaningfully below the Software industry average of 9.7%. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Regardless of how SolarWinds 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.

SolarWinds has an ROCE of 2.8%, but it didn't have an ROCE 3 years ago, since it was unprofitable. That implies the business has been improving. The image below shows how SolarWinds's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:SWI Past Revenue and Net Income, February 6th 2020

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. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

How SolarWinds's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

SolarWinds has total assets of US$5.3b and current liabilities of US$423m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 8.0% of its total assets. SolarWinds has a low level of current liabilities, which have a negligible impact on its already low ROCE.

The Bottom Line On SolarWinds's ROCE

Nevertheless, there are potentially more attractive companies to invest in. You might be able to find a better investment than SolarWinds. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.

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. Thank you for reading.