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Urban Outfitters, Inc. (NASDAQ:URBN) Earns Among The Best Returns In Its Industry

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Urban Outfitters, Inc. (NASDAQ:URBN) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

Firstly, we'll go over how we 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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a measure of a company's yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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?

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 Urban Outfitters:

0.13 = US$332m ÷ (US$3.1b - US$626m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to July 2019.)

So, Urban Outfitters has an ROCE of 13%.

See our latest analysis for Urban Outfitters

Does Urban Outfitters Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Urban Outfitters's ROCE appears to be substantially greater than the 10% average in the Specialty Retail industry. We consider this a positive sign, because it suggests it uses capital more efficiently than similar companies. Separate from Urban Outfitters's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

Urban Outfitters's current ROCE of 13% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 25% ROCE. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Urban Outfitters's past growth compares to other companies.

NasdaqGS:URBN Past Revenue and Net Income, September 6th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Urban Outfitters.

Urban Outfitters's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Urban Outfitters has total liabilities of US$626m and total assets of US$3.1b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 20% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From Urban Outfitters's ROCE

With that in mind, Urban Outfitters's ROCE appears pretty good. Urban Outfitters looks strong on this analysis, but there are plenty of other companies that could be a good opportunity . Here is a free list of companies growing earnings rapidly.

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.