Does This Valuation Of Whitehaven Coal Limited (ASX:WHC) Imply Investors Are Overpaying?

In this article we are going to estimate the intrinsic value of Whitehaven Coal Limited (ASX:WHC) by taking the expected future cash flows and discounting them to today’s value. This will be done using the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. Don’t get put off by the jargon, the math behind it is actually quite straightforward.

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. For those who are keen learners of equity analysis, the Simply Wall St analysis model here may be something of interest to you.

Check out our latest analysis for Whitehaven Coal

The method

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) estimate

2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030
Levered FCF (A$, Millions) AU$158.4m AU$296.0m AU$83.0m AU$107.0m AU$90.7m AU$81.6m AU$76.4m AU$73.5m AU$72.1m AU$71.6m
Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x5 Analyst x4 Analyst x1 Analyst x1 Est @ -15.27% Est @ -10.01% Est @ -6.33% Est @ -3.75% Est @ -1.95% Est @ -0.69%
Present Value (A$, Millions) Discounted @ 11% AU$143 AU$242 AU$61.5 AU$71.7 AU$54.9 AU$44.7 AU$37.9 AU$33.0 AU$29.3 AU$26.3

(“Est” = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = AU$744m

The second stage is also known as Terminal Value, this is the business’s cash flow after the first stage. The Gordon Growth formula is used to calculate Terminal Value at a future annual growth rate equal to the 5-year average of the 10-year government bond yield of 2.3%. We discount the terminal cash flows to today’s value at a cost of equity of 11%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2030 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = AU$72m× (1 + 2.3%) ÷ (11%– 2.3%) = AU$885m

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= AU$885m÷ ( 1 + 11%)10= AU$325m

The total value, or equity value, is then the sum of the present value of the future cash flows, which in this case is AU$1.1b. In the final step we divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Compared to the current share price of AU$1.3, the company appears slightly overvalued 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.

dcf
ASX:WHC Discounted Cash Flow August 6th 2020

Important 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 Whitehaven Coal 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 11%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.377. 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.

Moving On:

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. 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. For instance, if the terminal value growth rate is adjusted slightly, it can dramatically alter the overall result. Can we work out why the company is trading at a premium to intrinsic value? For Whitehaven Coal, we’ve put together three essential elements you should further examine:

  1. Risks: Case in point, we’ve spotted 4 warning signs for Whitehaven Coal you should be aware of.
  2. Management:Have insiders been ramping up their shares to take advantage of the market’s sentiment for WHC’s future outlook? Check out our management and board analysis with insights on CEO compensation and governance factors.
  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. The Simply Wall St app conducts a discounted cash flow valuation for every stock on the ASX 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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