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Why Select Medical Holdings Corporation’s (NYSE:SEM) Use Of Investor Capital Doesn’t Look Great

Simply Wall St

Today we are going to look at Select Medical Holdings Corporation (NYSE:SEM) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its 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. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

What is 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. 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?

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 Select Medical Holdings:

0.068 = US$425m ÷ (US$7.1b - US$853m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Select Medical Holdings has an ROCE of 6.8%.

View our latest analysis for Select Medical Holdings

Does Select Medical Holdings Have A Good ROCE?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, Select Medical Holdings's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 11% average in the Healthcare industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Select Medical Holdings's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Readers may find more attractive investment prospects elsewhere.

You can see in the image below how Select Medical Holdings's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:SEM Past Revenue and Net Income, October 11th 2019

When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

Do Select Medical Holdings's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Current liabilities include invoices, such as supplier payments, short-term debt, or a tax bill, that need to be paid within 12 months. Due to the way ROCE is calculated, a high level of current liabilities makes a company look as though it has less capital employed, and thus can (sometimes unfairly) boost the ROCE. To counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.

Select Medical Holdings has total liabilities of US$853m and total assets of US$7.1b. Therefore its current liabilities are equivalent to approximately 12% of its total assets. This is a modest level of current liabilities, which would only have a small effect on ROCE.

What We Can Learn From Select Medical Holdings's ROCE

With that in mind, we're not overly impressed with Select Medical Holdings's ROCE, so it may not be the most appealing prospect. Of course, you might find a fantastic investment by looking at a few good candidates. So take a peek at this free list of companies with modest (or no) debt, trading on a P/E below 20.

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.