Today we will run through one way of estimating the intrinsic value of Varian Medical Systems, Inc. (NYSE:VAR) by taking the expected future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. I will be using the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. It may sound complicated, but actually it is quite simple!
We generally believe that a company’s value is the present value of all of the cash it will generate in the future. However, a DCF is just one valuation metric among many, and it is not without flaws. Anyone interested in learning a bit more about intrinsic value should have a read of the Simply Wall St analysis model.
Is Varian Medical Systems fairly valued?
We use what is known as a 2-stage model, which simply means we have two different periods of growth rates for the company’s cash flows. Generally the first stage is higher growth, and the second stage is a lower growth phase. In the first stage we need to estimate the cash flows to the business over the next ten years. Where possible we use analyst estimates, but when these aren’t available we extrapolate the previous free cash flow (FCF) from the last estimate or reported value. We assume companies with shrinking free cash flow will slow their rate of shrinkage, and that companies with growing free cash flow will see their growth rate slow, over this period. We do this to reflect that growth tends to slow more in the early years than it does in later years.
A DCF is all about the idea that a dollar in the future is less valuable than a dollar today, so we discount the value of these future cash flows to their estimated value in today’s dollars:
10-year free cash flow (FCF) forecast
|Levered FCF ($, Millions)||US$381.5m||US$410.2m||US$489.8m||US$535.8m||US$573.8m||US$605.3m||US$631.8m||US$654.4m||US$674.2m||US$692.0m|
|Growth Rate Estimate Source||Analyst x5||Analyst x5||Analyst x2||Est @ 9.4%||Est @ 7.1%||Est @ 5.49%||Est @ 4.37%||Est @ 3.58%||Est @ 3.03%||Est @ 2.64%|
|Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 6.7%||US$358||US$361||US$403||US$414||US$415||US$411||US$402||US$390||US$377||US$363|
(“Est” = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$3.9b
After calculating the present value of future cash flows in the intial 10-year period, we need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all future cash flows beyond the first stage. For a number of reasons a very conservative growth rate is used that cannot exceed that of a country’s GDP growth. In this case we have used the 10-year government bond rate (1.7%) to estimate future growth. In the same way as with the 10-year ‘growth’ period, we discount future cash flows to today’s value, using a cost of equity of 6.7%.
Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2029 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$692m× (1 + 1.7%) ÷ 6.7%– 1.7%) = US$14b
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$14b÷ ( 1 + 6.7%)10= US$7.5b
The total value, or equity value, is then the sum of the present value of the future cash flows, which in this case is US$11b. In the final step we divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of US$121, the company appears about fair value at a 3.3% discount to where the stock price trades currently. Valuations are imprecise instruments though, rather like a telescope – move a few degrees and end up in a different galaxy. Do keep this in mind.
Now the most important inputs to a discounted cash flow are the discount rate, and of course, the actual cash flows. If you don’t agree with these result, have a go at the calculation yourself and play with the assumptions. The DCF also does not consider the possible cyclicality of an industry, or a company’s future capital requirements, so it does not give a full picture of a company’s potential performance. Given that we are looking at Varian Medical Systems as potential shareholders, the cost of equity is used as the discount rate, rather than the cost of capital (or weighted average cost of capital, WACC) which accounts for debt. In this calculation we’ve used 6.7%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.907. Beta is a measure of a stock’s volatility, compared to the market as a whole. We get our beta from the industry average beta of globally comparable companies, with an imposed limit between 0.8 and 2.0, which is a reasonable range for a stable business.
Whilst important, DCF calculation shouldn’t be the only metric you look at when researching a company. The DCF model is not a perfect stock valuation tool. Rather it should be seen as a guide to “what assumptions need to be true for this stock to be under/overvalued?” If a company grows at a different rate, or if its cost of equity or risk free rate changes sharply, the output can look very different. For Varian Medical Systems, We’ve put together three relevant aspects you should further research:
- Risks: As an example, we’ve found 3 warning signs for Varian Medical Systems that you need to consider before investing here.
- Future Earnings: How does VAR’s growth rate compare to its peers and the wider market? Dig deeper into the analyst consensus number for the upcoming years by interacting with our free analyst growth expectation chart.
- Other Solid Businesses: Low debt, high returns on equity and good past performance are fundamental to a strong business. Why not explore our interactive list of stocks with solid business fundamentals to see if there are other companies you may not have considered!
PS. The Simply Wall St app conducts a discounted cash flow valuation for every stock on the NYSE every day. If you want to find the calculation for other stocks just search here.
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.
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