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Why WEX Inc.’s (NYSE:WEX) Use Of Investor Capital Doesn’t Look Great

Simply Wall St

Today we'll evaluate WEX Inc. ( NYSE:WEX ) to determine whether it could have potential as an investment idea. 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, we'll go over how we calculate ROCE. Next, we'll compare it to others in its industry. Then we'll determine how its current liabilities are affecting its ROCE.

What is Return On Capital Employed (ROCE)?

ROCE measures the amount of pre-tax profits a company can generate from the capital employed in its 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?

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 WEX:

0.066 = US$366m ÷ (US$8.6b - US$3.0b) (Based on the trailing twelve months to June 2019.)

Therefore, WEX has an ROCE of 6.6%.

View our latest analysis for WEX

Is WEX's ROCE Good?

ROCE is commonly used for comparing the performance of similar businesses. We can see WEX's ROCE is meaningfully below the IT industry average of 9.9%. This performance is not ideal, as it suggests the company may not be deploying its capital as effectively as some competitors. Aside from the industry comparison, WEX's ROCE is mediocre in absolute terms, considering the risk of investing in stocks versus the safety of a bank account. Investors may wish to consider higher-performing investments.

The image below shows how WEX's ROCE compares to its industry, and you can click it to see more detail on its past growth.

NYSE:WEX Past Revenue and Net Income, September 18th 2019

It is important to remember that ROCE shows past performance, and is not necessarily predictive. ROCE can be misleading for companies in cyclical industries, with returns looking impressive during the boom times, but very weak during the busts. This is because ROCE only looks at one year, instead of considering returns across a whole cycle. Future performance is what matters, and you can see analyst predictions in our free report on analyst forecasts for the company .

WEX's Current Liabilities And Their Impact On Its ROCE

Short term (or current) liabilities, are things like supplier invoices, overdrafts, or tax bills 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 check the impact of this, we calculate if a company has high current liabilities relative to its total assets.

WEX has total assets of US$8.6b and current liabilities of US$3.0b. As a result, its current liabilities are equal to approximately 35% of its total assets. WEX's middling level of current liabilities have the effect of boosting its ROCE a bit.

Our Take On WEX's ROCE

With this level of liabilities and a mediocre ROCE, there are potentially better investments out there. Of course, you might also be able to find a better stock than WEX . So you may wish to see this free collection of other companies that have grown earnings strongly.

I will like WEX 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.