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Has IPH Limited (ASX:IPH) Been Employing Capital Shrewdly?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate IPH Limited (ASX:IPH) 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. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Finally, we'll look at how its current liabilities affect its ROCE.

Understanding 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.

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 IPH:

0.19 = AU$71m ÷ (AU$415m - AU$38m) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, IPH has an ROCE of 19%.

Check out our latest analysis for IPH

Is IPH's ROCE Good?

When making comparisons between similar businesses, investors may find ROCE useful. Using our data, IPH's ROCE appears to be around the 18% average of the Professional Services industry. Separate from IPH's performance relative to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms looks satisfactory, and it may be worth researching in more depth.

You can click on the image below to see (in greater detail) how IPH's past growth compares to other companies.

ASX:IPH Past Revenue and Net Income, October 28th 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. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for IPH.

IPH'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 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 counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

IPH has total assets of AU$415m and current liabilities of AU$38m. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 9.1% of its total assets. With low current liabilities, IPH's decent ROCE looks that much more respectable.

What We Can Learn From IPH's ROCE

If IPH can continue reinvesting in its business, it could be an attractive prospect. There might be better investments than IPH out there, but you will have to work hard to find them . These promising businesses with rapidly growing earnings might be right up your alley.

If you are like me, then you will not want to miss this free list of growing companies that insiders are 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.