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Why InvoCare Limited’s (ASX:IVC) Use Of Investor Capital Doesn’t Look Great

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate InvoCare Limited (ASX:IVC) 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.

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

Understanding 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. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. In brief, it is a useful tool, but it is not without drawbacks. 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'.

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 InvoCare:

0.07 = AU$100m ÷ (AU$1.6b - AU$174m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2019.)

So, InvoCare has an ROCE of 7.0%.

Check out our latest analysis for InvoCare

Does InvoCare Have A Good ROCE?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. In this analysis, InvoCare's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 9.2% average reported by the Consumer Services industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Separate from how InvoCare stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is mediocre; relative to the returns on government bonds. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

InvoCare's current ROCE of 7.0% is lower than 3 years ago, when the company reported a 9.4% ROCE. This makes us wonder if the business is facing new challenges. The image below shows how InvoCare's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

ASX:IVC Past Revenue and Net Income, March 11th 2020

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. 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 InvoCare.

InvoCare's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

InvoCare has total assets of AU$1.6b and current liabilities of AU$174m. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 11% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

Our Take On InvoCare's ROCE

That said, InvoCare's ROCE is mediocre, there may be more attractive investments around. 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 InvoCare better if I see some big insider buys. While we wait, check out this free list of growing companies with considerable, recent, insider buying.

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.