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Are TAL Education Group’s (NYSE:TAL) Returns Worth Your While?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate TAL Education Group (NYSE:TAL) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

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

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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.

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 TAL Education Group:

0.092 = US$313m ÷ (US$4.7b - US$1.3b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to August 2019.)

So, TAL Education Group has an ROCE of 9.2%.

Check out our latest analysis for TAL Education Group

Does TAL Education Group Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, TAL Education Group's ROCE appears to be around the 8.9% average of the Consumer Services industry. Separate from how TAL Education Group stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

You can see in the image below how TAL Education Group's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:TAL Past Revenue and Net Income, December 23rd 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. ROCE is, after all, simply a snap shot of a single year. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for TAL Education Group.

TAL Education Group's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

TAL Education Group has total liabilities of US$1.3b and total assets of US$4.7b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 28% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

The Bottom Line On TAL Education Group's ROCE

That said, TAL Education Group's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E 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.

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.