Are Investors Undervaluing K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN) By 36%?

Today we will run through one way of estimating the intrinsic value of K12 Inc. (NYSE:LRN) by projecting its future cash flows and then discounting them to today’s value. I will use the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. Don’t get put off by the jargon, the math behind it is actually quite straightforward.

Remember though, that there are many ways to estimate a company’s value, and a DCF is just one method. 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.

View our latest analysis for K12

The model

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.

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) forecast

 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 Levered FCF (\$, Millions) US\$81.4m US\$82.3m US\$83.5m US\$85.1m US\$86.9m US\$88.9m US\$91.1m US\$93.4m US\$95.8m US\$98.3m Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x2 Analyst x2 Est @ 1.51% Est @ 1.88% Est @ 2.13% Est @ 2.31% Est @ 2.44% Est @ 2.53% Est @ 2.59% Est @ 2.63% Present Value (\$, Millions) Discounted @ 7.6% US\$75.6 US\$71.1 US\$67.0 US\$63.4 US\$60.2 US\$57.2 US\$54.5 US\$51.9 US\$49.5 US\$47.2

(“Est” = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US\$597m

After calculating the present value of future cash flows in the intial 10-year period, we need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all future cash flows beyond the first stage. The Gordon Growth formula is used to calculate Terminal Value at a future annual growth rate equal to the 10-year government bond rate of 2.7%. We discount the terminal cash flows to today’s value at a cost of equity of 7.6%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2019 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US\$98m× (1 + 2.7%) ÷ 7.6%– 2.7%) = US\$2.1b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US\$2.1b÷ ( 1 + 7.6%)10= US\$991m

The total value, or equity value, is then the sum of the present value of the future cash flows, which in this case is US\$1.6b. In the final step we divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Compared to the current share price of US\$26.1, the company appears quite good value at a 36% 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.

Important 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 K12 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 7.6%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.820. 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:

Whilst important, DCF calculation shouldn’t be the only metric you look at when researching 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?” If a company grows at a different rate, or if its cost of equity or risk free rate changes sharply, the output can look very different. What is the reason for the share price to differ from the intrinsic value? For K12, There are three essential aspects you should look at:

1. Financial Health: Does LRN have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.
2. Future Earnings: How does LRN’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 High Quality Alternatives: Are there other high quality stocks you could be holding instead of LRN? Explore our interactive list of high quality stocks to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!

PS. Simply Wall St updates its DCF calculation for every US stock every day, so if you want to find the intrinsic value of any other stock just search here.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.