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Here’s why Sonos, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:SONO) Returns On Capital Matters So Much

Andy Nguyen

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Today we’ll evaluate Sonos, Inc. (NASDAQ:SONO) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. Specifically, we’re going to calculate its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), in the hopes of getting some insight into the business.

First, we’ll go over how we calculate ROCE. Second, we’ll look at its ROCE compared to similar companies. Then we’ll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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’.

So, How Do We Calculate ROCE?

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 Sonos:

0.037 = -US$8.9m ÷ (US$636m – US$272m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)

So, Sonos has an ROCE of 3.7%.

View our latest analysis for Sonos

Is Sonos’s ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see Sonos’s ROCE is meaningfully below the Consumer Durables industry average of 11%. This performance could be negative if sustained, as it suggests the business may underperform its industry. Regardless of how Sonos stacks up against its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is quite low (especially compared to a bank account). Readers may wish to look for more rewarding investments.

NASDAQGS:SONO Last Perf February 9th 19

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. 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 Sonos.

What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Sonos’s 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 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.

Sonos has total liabilities of US$272m and total assets of US$636m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 43% of its total assets. In light of sufficient current liabilities to noticeably boost the ROCE, Sonos’s ROCE is concerning.

The Bottom Line On Sonos’s ROCE

So researching other companies may be a better use of your time. You might be able to find a better buy than Sonos. If you want a selection of possible winners, check out this free list of interesting companies that trade on a P/E below 20 (but have proven they can grow earnings).

I will like Sonos 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.