Stock Analysis

Are Investors Undervaluing Appen Limited (ASX:APX) By 36%?

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ASX:APX
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How far off is Appen Limited (ASX:APX) from its intrinsic value? Using the most recent financial data, we'll take a look at whether the stock is fairly priced by projecting its future cash flows and then discounting them to today's value. We will take advantage of the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model for this purpose. Before you think you won't be able to understand it, just read on! It's actually much less complex than you'd imagine.

Remember though, that there are many ways to estimate a company's value, and a DCF is just one method. If you still have some burning questions about this type of valuation, take a look at the Simply Wall St analysis model.

Check out our latest analysis for Appen

The calculation

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 begin with, we have to get estimates of 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.

A DCF is all about the idea that a dollar in the future is less valuable than a dollar today, and so the sum of these future cash flows is then discounted to today's value:

10-year free cash flow (FCF) forecast

2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031
Levered FCF ($, Millions) US$55.9m US$63.4m US$68.9m US$73.5m US$77.3m US$80.5m US$83.3m US$85.8m US$88.1m US$90.3m
Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x2 Analyst x2 Est @ 8.68% Est @ 6.64% Est @ 5.2% Est @ 4.2% Est @ 3.5% Est @ 3.01% Est @ 2.66% Est @ 2.42%
Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 6.6% US$52.4 US$55.8 US$56.9 US$56.9 US$56.2 US$54.9 US$53.3 US$51.5 US$49.6 US$47.7

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$535m

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 1.9%. We discount the terminal cash flows to today's value at a cost of equity of 6.6%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2031 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$90m× (1 + 1.9%) ÷ (6.6%– 1.9%) = US$1.9b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$1.9b÷ ( 1 + 6.6%)10= US$1.0b

The total value is the sum of cash flows for the next ten years plus the discounted terminal value, which results in the Total Equity Value, which in this case is US$1.6b. To get the intrinsic value per share, we divide this by the total number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of AU$10.9, the company appears quite good value at a 36% discount to where the stock price trades currently. The assumptions in any calculation have a big impact on the valuation, so it is better to view this as a rough estimate, not precise down to the last cent.

dcf
ASX:APX Discounted Cash Flow October 25th 2021

Important 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. 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 Appen 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 6.6%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.081. 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 ideally won't be the sole piece of analysis you scrutinize for 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?" 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 Appen, we've put together three important factors you should consider:

  1. Risks: To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with Appen .
  2. Management:Have insiders been ramping up their shares to take advantage of the market's sentiment for APX'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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