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Why You Should Care About ScanSource, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:SCSC) Low Return On Capital

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at ScanSource, Inc. (NASDAQ:SCSC) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

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?

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 ScanSource:

0.078 = US$106m ÷ (US$2.1b - US$737m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, ScanSource has an ROCE of 7.8%.

See our latest analysis for ScanSource

Does ScanSource Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In this analysis, ScanSource's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 12% average reported by the Electronic industry. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, ScanSource's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

As we can see, ScanSource currently has an ROCE of 7.8%, less than the 12% it reported 3 years ago. So investors might consider if it has had issues recently.

NasdaqGS:SCSC Past Revenue and Net Income, April 23rd 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. 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 ScanSource.

How ScanSource's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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.

ScanSource has total assets of US$2.1b and current liabilities of US$737m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 35% of its total assets. ScanSource's ROCE is improved somewhat by its moderate amount of current liabilities.

What We Can Learn From ScanSource's ROCE

Despite this, its ROCE is still mediocre, and you may find more appealing investments elsewhere. But note: make sure you look for a great company, not just the first idea you come across. So take a peek at this free list of interesting companies with strong recent earnings growth (and a P/E ratio 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.

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.