Are Investors Undervaluing Coles Group Limited (ASX:COL) By 49%?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
May 15, 2022
ASX:COL
Source: Shutterstock

In this article we are going to estimate the intrinsic value of Coles Group Limited (ASX:COL) by estimating the company's future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. This will be done using the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. Models like these may appear beyond the comprehension of a lay person, but they're fairly easy to follow.

Companies can be valued in a lot of ways, so we would point out that a DCF is not perfect for every situation. For those who are keen learners of equity analysis, the Simply Wall St analysis model here may be something of interest to you.

View our latest analysis for Coles Group

What's the estimated valuation?

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. 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, and so the sum of these future cash flows is then discounted to today's value:

10-year free cash flow (FCF) estimate

2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031
Levered FCF (A$, Millions) AU$1.07b AU$980.0m AU$1.29b AU$1.22b AU$1.51b AU$1.65b AU$1.77b AU$1.86b AU$1.94b AU$2.01b
Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x4 Analyst x4 Analyst x4 Analyst x2 Analyst x1 Est @ 9.08% Est @ 6.9% Est @ 5.37% Est @ 4.3% Est @ 3.55%
Present Value (A$, Millions) Discounted @ 5.2% AU$1.0k AU$886 AU$1.1k AU$992 AU$1.2k AU$1.2k AU$1.2k AU$1.2k AU$1.2k AU$1.2k

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = AU$11b

The second stage is also known as Terminal Value, this is the business's cash flow after 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 (1.8%) 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 5.2%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2031 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = AU$2.0b× (1 + 1.8%) ÷ (5.2%– 1.8%) = AU$60b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= AU$60b÷ ( 1 + 5.2%)10= AU$36b

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$48b. In the final step we divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of AU$18.4, the company appears quite undervalued at a 49% 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.

dcf
ASX:COL Discounted Cash Flow May 15th 2022

The assumptions

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 Coles Group 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 5.2%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.800. 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.

Looking Ahead:

Valuation is only one side of the coin in terms of building your investment thesis, and 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. Preferably you'd apply different cases and assumptions and see how they would impact the company's valuation. For instance, if the terminal value growth rate is adjusted slightly, it can dramatically alter the overall result. Why is the intrinsic value higher than the current share price? For Coles Group, we've compiled three fundamental items you should further research:

  1. Risks: To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with Coles Group .
  2. Future Earnings: How does COL'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. 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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