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Is Universal Health Services, Inc.'s (NYSE:UHS) Capital Allocation Ability Worth Your Time?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll look at Universal Health Services, Inc. ( NYSE:UHS ) and reflect on its potential as an investment. In particular, we'll consider its Return On Capital Employed (ROCE), as that can give us insight into how profitably the company is able to employ capital in its business.

First of all, we'll work out how to calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Last but not least, we'll look at what impact its current liabilities have on its ROCE.

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

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its business. Generally speaking a higher ROCE is better. 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 Universal Health Services:

0.12 = US$1.3b ÷ (US$12b - US$1.5b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, Universal Health Services has an ROCE of 12%.

View our latest analysis for Universal Health Services

Is Universal Health Services's ROCE Good?

One way to assess ROCE is to compare similar companies. Using our data, Universal Health Services's ROCE appears to be around the 11% average of the Healthcare industry. Regardless of where Universal Health Services sits next to its industry, its ROCE in absolute terms appears satisfactory, and this company could be worth a closer look.

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

NYSE:UHS Past Revenue and Net Income, September 17th 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. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Since the future is so important for investors, you should check out our free report on analyst forecasts for Universal Health Services .

Do Universal Health Services's Current Liabilities Skew Its ROCE?

Liabilities, such as supplier bills and bank overdrafts, are referred to as current liabilities if they need to be paid within 12 months. The ROCE equation subtracts current liabilities from capital employed, so a company with a lot of current liabilities appears to have less capital employed, and a higher ROCE than otherwise. To counter this, investors can check if a company has high current liabilities relative to total assets.

Universal Health Services has total liabilities of US$1.5b and total assets of US$12b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 13% of its total assets. Low current liabilities are not boosting the ROCE too much.

What We Can Learn From Universal Health Services's ROCE

Overall, Universal Health Services has a decent ROCE and could be worthy of further research. There might be better investments than Universal Health Services 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.

For those who like to find winning investments this free list of growing companies with recent insider purchasing, could be just the ticket.

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.