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Why We Like Esker SA’s (EPA:ALESK) 17% Return On Capital Employed

Renee Allred

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Today we’ll evaluate Esker SA (EPA:ALESK) 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 up, we’ll look at what ROCE is and how we calculate it. Then we’ll compare its ROCE to similar companies. And finally, we’ll look at how its current liabilities are impacting 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. Author Edwin Whiting says to be careful when comparing the ROCE of different businesses, since ‘No two businesses are exactly alike.’

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Esker:

0.17 = €10m ÷ (€82m – €18m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2018.)

So, Esker has an ROCE of 17%.

See our latest analysis for Esker

Does Esker Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. Using our data, we find that Esker’s ROCE is meaningfully better than the 10% average in the Software industry. We would consider this a positive, as it suggests it is using capital more effectively than other similar companies. Regardless of where Esker sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

ENXTPA:ALESK Last Perf February 11th 19

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be deceptive for cyclical businesses, as returns can look incredible in boom times, and terribly low in downturns. ROCE is only a point-in-time measure. What happens in the future is pretty important for investors, so we have prepared a free report on analyst forecasts for Esker.

How Esker’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. 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Esker has total liabilities of €18m and total assets of €82m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 22% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From Esker’s ROCE

With that in mind, Esker’s ROCE appears pretty good. Of course you might be able to find a better stock than Esker. So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

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

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.