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What We Think Of KAR Auction Services, Inc.’s (NYSE:KAR) Investment Potential

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at KAR Auction Services, Inc. (NYSE:KAR) 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. 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 measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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?

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 KAR Auction Services:

0.12 = US$635m ÷ (US$8.3b - US$2.9b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, KAR Auction Services has an ROCE of 12%.

Check out our latest analysis for KAR Auction Services

Is KAR Auction Services's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see KAR Auction Services's ROCE is around the 11% average reported by the Commercial Services industry. Separate from KAR Auction Services's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

You can see in the image below how KAR Auction Services's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:KAR Past Revenue and Net Income, July 26th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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. 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.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect KAR Auction Services's 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

KAR Auction Services has total assets of US$8.3b and current liabilities of US$2.9b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 35% of its total assets. KAR Auction Services has a middling amount of current liabilities, increasing its ROCE somewhat.

The Bottom Line On KAR Auction Services's ROCE

With a decent ROCE, the company could be interesting, but remember that the level of current liabilities make the ROCE look better. KAR Auction Services shapes up well under this analysis, but it is far from the only business delivering excellent numbers . You might also want to check this free collection of companies delivering excellent earnings growth.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are buying.

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.