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Here’s What Vipshop Holdings Limited’s (NYSE:VIPS) ROCE Can Tell Us

David Owens

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Today we’ll evaluate Vipshop Holdings Limited (NYSE:VIPS) 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.

First of all, we’ll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we’ll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

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

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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.’

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 Vipshop Holdings:

0.14 = CN¥2.4b ÷ (CN¥44b – CN¥26b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

Therefore, Vipshop Holdings has an ROCE of 14%.

Check out our latest analysis for Vipshop Holdings

Does Vipshop Holdings Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, we find that Vipshop Holdings’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 9.4% average in the Online Retail industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Separate from Vipshop Holdings’s performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

Vipshop Holdings’s current ROCE of 14% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 26% ROCE. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges.

NYSE:VIPS Past Revenue and Net Income, February 25th 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. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Vipshop Holdings.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Vipshop Holdings’s ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. 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.

Vipshop Holdings has total liabilities of CN¥26b and total assets of CN¥44b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 60% of its total assets. This is admittedly a high level of current liabilities, improving ROCE substantially.

The Bottom Line On Vipshop Holdings’s ROCE

While its ROCE looks decent, it wouldn’t look so good if it reduced current liabilities. But note: Vipshop Holdings may not be the best stock to buy. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio below 20).

I will like Vipshop Holdings better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider 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.