U.S. Markets closed

What Can We Make Of Stamps.com Inc.’s (NASDAQ:STMP) High Return On Capital?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Stamps.com Inc. (NASDAQ:STMP) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. To be precise, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that will inform our view of the quality of the business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we'll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

What is 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. 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'.

How Do You Calculate Return On Capital Employed?

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 Stamps.com:

0.28 = US$197m ÷ (US$853m - US$151m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Stamps.com has an ROCE of 28%.

See our latest analysis for Stamps.com

Does Stamps.com Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Stamps.com's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 10% average in the Online Retail 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. Regardless of the industry comparison, in absolute terms, Stamps.com's ROCE currently appears to be excellent.

Our data shows that Stamps.com currently has an ROCE of 28%, compared to its ROCE of 13% 3 years ago. This makes us wonder if the company is improving.

NasdaqGS:STMP Past Revenue and Net Income, April 24th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Stamps.com.

Do Stamps.com's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

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

Stamps.com has total assets of US$853m and current liabilities of US$151m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 18% of its total assets. The fairly low level of current liabilities won't have much impact on the already great ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Stamps.com's ROCE

This is good to see, and with such a high ROCE, Stamps.com may be worth a closer look. There might be better investments than Stamps.com 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.

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.