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Should You Worry About Alteryx, Inc.’s (NYSE:AYX) ROCE?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate Alteryx, Inc. (NYSE:AYX) 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. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE is a metric for evaluating how much pre-tax income (in percentage terms) a company earns on the capital invested in its business. In general, businesses with a higher ROCE are usually better quality. Ultimately, it is a useful but imperfect metric. 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?

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 Alteryx:

0.054 = US$20m ÷ (US$664m - US$298m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

So, Alteryx has an ROCE of 5.4%.

Check out our latest analysis for Alteryx

Is Alteryx's ROCE Good?

ROCE can be useful when making comparisons, such as between similar companies. In this analysis, Alteryx's ROCE appears meaningfully below the 10.0% average reported by the Software industry. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Putting aside Alteryx'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.

Alteryx has an ROCE of 5.4%, but it didn't have an ROCE 3 years ago, since it was unprofitable. This makes us wonder if the company is improving. You can see in the image below how Alteryx's ROCE compares to its industry. Click to see more on past growth.

NYSE:AYX Past Revenue and Net Income, September 2nd 2019

Remember that this metric is backwards looking - it shows what has happened in the past, and does not accurately predict the future. 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 Alteryx'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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Alteryx has total assets of US$664m and current liabilities of US$298m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 45% of its total assets. Alteryx has a medium level of current liabilities (boosting the ROCE somewhat), and a low ROCE.

The Bottom Line On Alteryx's ROCE

So researching other companies may be a better use of your time. You might be able to find a better investment than Alteryx. 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 Alteryx 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.