Calculating The Fair Value Of National Instruments Corporation (NASDAQ:NATI)

Today we’ll do a simple run through of a valuation method used to estimate the attractiveness of National Instruments Corporation (NASDAQ:NATI) as an investment opportunity 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. If you want to learn more about discounted cash flow, the rationale behind this calculation can be read in detail in the Simply Wall St analysis model.

View our latest analysis for National Instruments

The calculation

We are going to use a two-stage DCF model, which, as the name states, takes into account two stages of growth. The first stage is generally a higher growth period which levels off heading towards the terminal value, captured in the second ‘steady growth’ period. 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.

Generally we assume that a dollar today is more valuable than a dollar in the future, so we need to discount the sum of these future cash flows to arrive at a present value estimate:

10-year free cash flow (FCF) estimate

2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029
Levered FCF ($, Millions) US$242.3m US$190.0m US$227.7m US$241.4m US$252.8m US$262.5m US$270.9m US$278.4m US$285.3m US$291.7m
Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x2 Analyst x2 Analyst x1 Est @ 6.02% Est @ 4.73% Est @ 3.83% Est @ 3.21% Est @ 2.77% Est @ 2.46% Est @ 2.24%
Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 7.5% US$225 US$164 US$183 US$180 US$176 US$170 US$163 US$156 US$148 US$141

(“Est” = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$1.7b

We now need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all the future cash flows after this ten year period. 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 7.5%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2029 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$292m× (1 + 1.7%) ÷ 7.5%– 1.7%) = US$5.1b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$5.1b÷ ( 1 + 7.5%)10= US$2.5b

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$4.2b. The last step is to then divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of US$27.0, the company appears about fair value at a 15% discount to where the stock price trades currently. Remember though, that this is just an approximate valuation, and like any complex formula – garbage in, garbage out.

NasdaqGS:NATI Intrinsic value, March 21st 2020
NasdaqGS:NATI Intrinsic value, March 21st 2020

The assumptions

Now the most important inputs to a discounted cash flow are the discount rate, and of course, the actual cash flows. You don’t have to agree with these inputs, I recommend redoing the calculations yourself and playing with them. 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 National Instruments 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 7.5%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.066. 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.

Next Steps:

Valuation is only one side of the coin in terms of building your investment thesis, and it 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 National Instruments, We’ve compiled three important factors you should look at:

  1. Risks: For example, we’ve discovered 1 warning sign for National Instruments that you should be aware of before investing here.
  2. Future Earnings: How does NATI’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.
  3. 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. Simply Wall St updates its DCF calculation for every US stock every day, so if you want to find the intrinsic value of any other stock just search here.

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.

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. Thank you for reading.