Stock Analysis

# Calculating The Fair Value Of Canadian National Railway Company (TSE:CNR)

Does the October share price for Canadian National Railway Company (TSE:CNR) reflect what it's really worth? Today, we will estimate the stock's intrinsic value by taking the forecast future cash flows of the company and discounting them back to today's value. One way to achieve this is by employing the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. There's really not all that much to it, even though it might appear quite complex.

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. If you want to learn more about discounted cash flow, the rationale behind this calculation can be read in detail in the Simply Wall St analysis model.

## What's The Estimated Valuation?

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 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.

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) forecast

 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031 2032 Levered FCF (CA\$, Millions) CA\$4.36b CA\$4.62b CA\$5.10b CA\$5.40b CA\$5.63b CA\$5.82b CA\$5.99b CA\$6.14b CA\$6.29b CA\$6.42b Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x12 Analyst x6 Analyst x2 Analyst x2 Est @ 4.21% Est @ 3.45% Est @ 2.92% Est @ 2.55% Est @ 2.29% Est @ 2.11% Present Value (CA\$, Millions) Discounted @ 6.4% CA\$4.1k CA\$4.1k CA\$4.2k CA\$4.2k CA\$4.1k CA\$4.0k CA\$3.9k CA\$3.7k CA\$3.6k CA\$3.5k

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = CA\$39b

We now need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all the future cash flows after this ten year period. 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 (1.7%) 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 6.4%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2032 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = CA\$6.4b× (1 + 1.7%) ÷ (6.4%– 1.7%) = CA\$139b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= CA\$139b÷ ( 1 + 6.4%)10= CA\$75b

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\$114b. To get the intrinsic value per share, we divide this by the total number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of CA\$149, the company appears about fair value at a 11% discount to where the stock price trades currently. 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.

## The Assumptions

The calculation above is very dependent on two assumptions. The first is the discount rate and the other is the 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 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 6.4%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.005. 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:

Whilst important, the DCF calculation ideally won't be the sole piece of analysis you scrutinize for a company. The DCF model is not a perfect stock valuation tool. 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. For Canadian National Railway, we've compiled three further factors you should further examine:

1. Risks: For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Canadian National Railway that you should be aware of.
2. Management:Have insiders been ramping up their shares to take advantage of the market's sentiment for CNR'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 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. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.