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Is SPS Commerce, Inc. (NASDAQ:SPSC) Creating Value For Shareholders?

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at SPS Commerce, Inc. (NASDAQ:SPSC) 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 up, we'll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. 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 measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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.

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 SPS Commerce:

0.092 = US$33m ÷ (US$419m - US$58m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, SPS Commerce has an ROCE of 9.2%.

Check out our latest analysis for SPS Commerce

Does SPS Commerce Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. It appears that SPS Commerce's ROCE is fairly close to the Software industry average of 9.8%. Separate from how SPS Commerce stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

Our data shows that SPS Commerce currently has an ROCE of 9.2%, compared to its ROCE of 2.9% 3 years ago. This makes us think about whether the company has been reinvesting shrewdly. The image below shows how SPS Commerce's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGS:SPSC Past Revenue and Net Income, October 9th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

SPS Commerce'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.

SPS Commerce has total liabilities of US$58m and total assets of US$419m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 14% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From SPS Commerce's ROCE

If SPS Commerce continues to earn an uninspiring ROCE, there may be better places to invest. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. 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. Thank you for reading.