Today we’ll do a simple run through of a valuation method used to estimate the attractiveness of Zebra Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ:ZBRA) as an investment opportunity by estimating the company’s future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. The Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model is the tool we will apply to do this. Don’t get put off by the jargon, the math behind it is actually quite straightforward.
Companies can be valued in a lot of ways, so we would point out that a DCF is not perfect for every situation. Anyone interested in learning a bit more about intrinsic value should have a read of the Simply Wall St analysis model.
We’re using the 2-stage growth model, which simply means we take in account two stages of company’s growth. In the initial period the company may have a higher growth rate and the second stage is usually assumed to have a stable growth rate. To start off with, we need to estimate the next ten years of cash flows. 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
|Levered FCF ($, Millions)||US$548.6m||US$708.3m||US$821.5m||US$880.4m||US$930.4m||US$973.6m||US$1.01b||US$1.05b||US$1.08b||US$1.11b|
|Growth Rate Estimate Source||Analyst x7||Analyst x6||Analyst x2||Est @ 7.17%||Est @ 5.68%||Est @ 4.64%||Est @ 3.92%||Est @ 3.41%||Est @ 3.05%||Est @ 2.8%|
|Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 9.2%||US$502||US$594||US$631||US$619||US$599||US$574||US$546||US$517||US$488||US$459|
(“Est” = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$5.5b
After calculating the present value of future cash flows in the initial 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 5-year average of the 10-year government bond yield (2.2%) 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 9.2%.
Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2029 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$1.1b× (1 + 2.2%) ÷ (9.2%– 2.2%) = US$16b
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$16b÷ ( 1 + 9.2%)10= US$6.7b
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$12b. The last step is to then divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of US$252, the company appears around fair value at the time of writing. 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.
We would point out that the most important inputs to a discounted cash flow are the discount rate and of course the actual cash flows. Part of investing is coming up with your own evaluation of a company’s future performance, so try the calculation yourself and check your own 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 Zebra Technologies 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 9.2%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.162. 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.
Although the valuation of a company is important, it ideally won’t be the sole piece of analysis you scrutinize for a company. DCF models are not the be-all and end-all of investment valuation. Instead the best use for a DCF model is to test certain assumptions and theories to see if they would lead to the company being undervalued or 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 Zebra Technologies, there are three further aspects you should explore:
- Risks: Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We’ve identified 3 warning signs with Zebra Technologies , and understanding these should be part of your investment process.
- Management:Have insiders been ramping up their shares to take advantage of the market’s sentiment for ZBRA’s future outlook? Check out our management and board analysis with insights on CEO compensation and governance factors.
- Other High Quality Alternatives: Do you like a good all-rounder? Explore our interactive list of high quality stocks to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!
PS. The Simply Wall St app conducts a discounted cash flow valuation for every stock on the NASDAQGS every day. If you want to find the calculation for other stocks just search here.
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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. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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