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Why We Like Groupon, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:GRPN) 10% Return On Capital Employed

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Groupon, Inc. (NASDAQ:GRPN) 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. 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 amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. 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 Groupon:

0.10 = US$70m ÷ (US$1.4b - US$750m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Groupon has an ROCE of 10%.

View our latest analysis for Groupon

Is Groupon's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In our analysis, Groupon's ROCE is meaningfully higher than the 8.3% 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 how Groupon stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

Groupon delivered an ROCE of 10%, which is better than 3 years ago, as was making losses back then. That suggests the business has returned to profitability. You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how Groupon's past growth compares to other companies.

NasdaqGS:GRPN Past Revenue and Net Income, September 1st 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Groupon.

Groupon's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Groupon has total assets of US$1.4b and current liabilities of US$750m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 52% of its total assets. With a high level of current liabilities, Groupon will experience a boost to its ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Groupon's ROCE

Even so, the company reports a mediocre ROCE, and there may be better investments out there. 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).

I will like Groupon 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.