A Look At The Intrinsic Value Of Canadian National Railway Company (TSE:CNR)

By
Simply Wall St
Published
May 06, 2021
TSX:CNR

How far off is Canadian National Railway Company (TSE:CNR) from its intrinsic value? Using the most recent financial data, we'll take a look at whether the stock is fairly priced 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.

We would caution that there are many ways of valuing a company and, like the DCF, each technique has advantages and disadvantages in certain scenarios. For those who are keen learners of equity analysis, the Simply Wall St analysis model here may be something of interest to you.

See our latest analysis for Canadian National Railway

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. 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.

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

2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030
Levered FCF (CA$, Millions) CA$2.93b CA$3.52b CA$3.64b CA$4.21b CA$4.56b CA$4.82b CA$5.03b CA$5.21b CA$5.36b CA$5.50b
Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x10 Analyst x11 Analyst x6 Analyst x2 Analyst x2 Est @ 5.66% Est @ 4.42% Est @ 3.55% Est @ 2.95% Est @ 2.52%
Present Value (CA$, Millions) Discounted @ 6.5% CA$2.8k CA$3.1k CA$3.0k CA$3.3k CA$3.3k CA$3.3k CA$3.2k CA$3.2k CA$3.0k CA$2.9k

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = CA$31b

We now need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all the future cash flows after this ten year period. 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 1.5%. We discount the terminal cash flows to today's value at a cost of equity of 6.5%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2030 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = CA$5.5b× (1 + 1.5%) ÷ (6.5%– 1.5%) = CA$113b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= CA$113b÷ ( 1 + 6.5%)10= CA$60b

The total value, or equity value, is then the sum of the present value of the future cash flows, which in this case is CA$91b. In the final step we divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of CA$135, 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.

dcf
TSX:CNR Discounted Cash Flow May 6th 2021

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 Canadian National Railway 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 6.5%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.047. 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:

Although the valuation of a company is important, 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. 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. For Canadian National Railway, we've put together three important elements you should further research:

  1. Risks: Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 2 warning signs with Canadian National Railway , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
  2. Future Earnings: How does CNR'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 TSX 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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