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Should You Worry About Huron Consulting Group Inc.’s (NASDAQ:HURN) ROCE?

Simply Wall St

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Today we are going to look at Huron Consulting Group Inc. (NASDAQ:HURN) to see whether it might be an attractive investment prospect. 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 of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. And finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities are impacting its ROCE.

Return On Capital Employed (ROCE): What is it?

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. 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'.

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 Huron Consulting Group:

0.08 = US$57m ÷ (US$1.1b - US$374m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to March 2019.)

Therefore, Huron Consulting Group has an ROCE of 8.0%.

View our latest analysis for Huron Consulting Group

Is Huron Consulting Group's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Huron Consulting Group's ROCE appears to be significantly below the 12% average in the Professional Services industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Setting aside the industry comparison for now, Huron Consulting Group's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. It is possible that there are more rewarding investments out there.

NasdaqGS:HURN Past Revenue and Net Income, May 8th 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 misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the 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.

How Huron Consulting Group's Current Liabilities Impact Its ROCE

Current liabilities are short term bills and invoices that need to be paid in 12 months or less. Due to the way the ROCE equation works, having large bills due in the near term can make it look as though a company has less capital employed, and thus a higher ROCE than usual. To check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

Huron Consulting Group has total assets of US$1.1b and current liabilities of US$374m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 34% of its total assets. Huron Consulting Group has a medium level of current liabilities, which would boost its ROCE somewhat.

Our Take On Huron Consulting Group's ROCE

Despite this, its ROCE is still mediocre, and you may find more appealing investments elsewhere. You might be able to find a better investment than Huron Consulting Group. 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 Huron Consulting Group 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.