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Why Criteo S.A.’s (NASDAQ:CRTO) Return On Capital Employed Is Impressive

Simply Wall St

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Today we are going to look at Criteo S.A. (NASDAQ:CRTO) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. Specifically, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.

Firstly, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Then we'll compare its ROCE to similar companies. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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 Criteo:

0.13 = US$150m ÷ (US$1.7b - US$565m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Criteo has an ROCE of 13%.

See our latest analysis for Criteo

Does Criteo Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. In our analysis, Criteo's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 8.5% average in the Media industry. I think that's good to see, since it implies the company is better than other companies at making the most of its capital. Separate from Criteo's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Criteo's past growth compares to other companies.

NasdaqGS:CRTO Past Revenue and Net Income, July 5th 2019

When considering ROCE, bear in mind that it reflects the past and does not necessarily predict the future. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. 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 Criteo.

How Criteo'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 the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Criteo has total liabilities of US$565m and total assets of US$1.7b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 32% of its total assets. Criteo has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost the ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Criteo's ROCE

Criteo's ROCE does look good, but the level of current liabilities also contribute to that. Criteo 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.

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

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.