A Look At The Fair Value Of Intuitive Surgical, Inc. (NASDAQ:ISRG)

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 18, 2022
NasdaqGS:ISRG
Source: Shutterstock

Today we will run through one way of estimating the intrinsic value of Intuitive Surgical, Inc. (NASDAQ:ISRG) by taking the forecast future cash flows of the company and discounting them back 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.

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. If you still have some burning questions about this type of valuation, take a look at the Simply Wall St analysis model.

View our latest analysis for Intuitive Surgical

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, so we need to discount the sum of these future cash flows to arrive at a present value estimate:

10-year free cash flow (FCF) forecast

2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031
Levered FCF ($, Millions) US$1.53b US$2.06b US$2.43b US$2.69b US$3.11b US$3.42b US$3.67b US$3.88b US$4.06b US$4.22b
Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x3 Analyst x5 Analyst x5 Analyst x2 Analyst x2 Est @ 9.82% Est @ 7.45% Est @ 5.79% Est @ 4.63% Est @ 3.82%
Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 5.7% US$1.4k US$1.8k US$2.1k US$2.2k US$2.4k US$2.5k US$2.5k US$2.5k US$2.5k US$2.4k

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$22b

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 (1.9%) 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 5.7%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2031 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$4.2b× (1 + 1.9%) ÷ (5.7%– 1.9%) = US$114b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$114b÷ ( 1 + 5.7%)10= US$66b

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$88b. The last step is to then divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of US$280, the company appears around fair value at the time of writing. Remember though, that this is just an approximate valuation, and like any complex formula - garbage in, garbage out.

dcf
NasdaqGS:ISRG Discounted Cash Flow April 18th 2022

The assumptions

Now 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 Intuitive Surgical 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 5.7%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.890. 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. It's not possible to obtain a foolproof valuation with a DCF model. 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 Intuitive Surgical, there are three additional factors you should further examine:

  1. Financial Health: Does ISRG 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 ISRG'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: Do you like a good all-rounder? 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 American stock every day, so if you want to find the intrinsic value of any other stock just search here.

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