Today we’ll look at Laureate Education, Inc. (NASDAQ:LAUR) and reflect on its potential as an investment. Specifically, we’ll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), since that will give us an insight into how efficiently the business can generate profits from the capital it requires.
First, we’ll go over how we 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.
What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?
ROCE is a measure of a company’s yearly pre-tax profit (its return), relative to the capital employed in the business. All else being equal, a better business will have a higher ROCE. 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?
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 Laureate Education:
0.054 = US$304m ÷ (US$6.8b – US$1.2b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to December 2018.)
So, Laureate Education has an ROCE of 5.4%.
Does Laureate Education Have A Good ROCE?
ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. Using our data, Laureate Education’s ROCE appears to be significantly below the 10% average in the Consumer Services industry. This could be seen as a negative, as it suggests some competitors may be employing their capital more efficiently. Independently of how Laureate Education compares to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms is low; especially compared to the ~2.7% available in government bonds. It is likely that there are more attractive prospects out there.
When considering this metric, keep in mind that it is backwards looking, and not necessarily predictive. 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 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.
What Are Current Liabilities, And How Do They Affect Laureate Education’s 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 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 counteract this, we check if a company has high current liabilities, relative to its total assets.
Laureate Education has total liabilities of US$1.2b and total assets of US$6.8b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 18% of its total assets. This is not a high level of current liabilities, which would not boost the ROCE by much.
Our Take On Laureate Education’s ROCE
That’s not a bad thing, however Laureate Education has a weak ROCE and may not be an attractive investment. You might be able to find a better buy than Laureate Education. 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).
If you like to buy stocks alongside management, then you might just love this free list of companies. (Hint: insiders have been buying them).
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.