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Why Bottomline Technologies (de), Inc.’s (NASDAQ:EPAY) Return On Capital Employed Might Be A Concern

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Bottomline Technologies (de), Inc. (NASDAQ:EPAY) 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, 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'.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Bottomline Technologies (de):

0.0066 = US$3.6m ÷ (US$679m - US$123m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to September 2019.)

So, Bottomline Technologies (de) has an ROCE of 0.7%.

View our latest analysis for Bottomline Technologies (de)

Does Bottomline Technologies (de) Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, Bottomline Technologies (de)'s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 9.8% average in the Software industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Regardless of how Bottomline Technologies (de) stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is quite low (especially compared to a bank account). It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

Bottomline Technologies (de) has an ROCE of 0.7%, but it didn't have an ROCE 3 years ago, since it was unprofitable. That implies the business has been improving. The image below shows how Bottomline Technologies (de)'s ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NasdaqGS:EPAY Past Revenue and Net Income, December 4th 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 Bottomline Technologies (de).

How Bottomline Technologies (de)'s Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills that 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Bottomline Technologies (de) has total liabilities of US$123m and total assets of US$679m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 18% of its total assets. This is not a high level of current liabilities, which would not boost the ROCE by much.

What We Can Learn From Bottomline Technologies (de)'s ROCE

Bottomline Technologies (de) has a poor ROCE, and there may be better investment prospects out there. 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.

If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).

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.