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Why Switch, Inc.’s (NYSE:SWCH) Return On Capital Employed Looks Uninspiring

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Switch, Inc. (NYSE:SWCH) and reflect on its potential as an investment. 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.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the 'return' (pre-tax profit) a company generates from capital employed in its business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. Overall, it is a valuable metric that has its flaws. 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 Switch:

0.044 = US$61m ÷ (US$1.5b - US$72m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

So, Switch has an ROCE of 4.4%.

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Does Switch Have A Good ROCE?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. In this analysis, Switch's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 11% average reported by the IT industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Putting aside Switch's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is poor - considering the risk of owning stocks compared to government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.

Switch's current ROCE of 4.4% is lower than its ROCE in the past, which was 11%, 3 years ago. Therefore we wonder if the company is facing new headwinds.

NYSE:SWCH Past Revenue and Net Income, May 22nd 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately 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. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

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

Switch has total liabilities of US$72m and total assets of US$1.5b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 4.9% of its total assets. With barely any current liabilities, there is minimal impact on Switch's admittedly low ROCE.

Our Take On Switch's ROCE

Still, investors could probably find more attractive prospects with better performance 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).

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.