Today we'll do a simple run through of a valuation method used to estimate the attractiveness of Westlake Chemical Corporation (NYSE:WLK) as an investment opportunity by taking the expected future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. Our analysis will employ the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. It may sound complicated, but actually it is quite simple!
Companies can be valued in a lot of ways, so we would point out that a DCF is not perfect for every situation. If you still have some burning questions about this type of valuation, take a look at the Simply Wall St analysis model.
Step by step through the calculation
We're using the 2-stage growth model, which simply means we take in account two stages of company's growth. In the initial period the company may have a higher growth rate and the second stage is usually assumed to have a stable growth rate. 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 need to discount the sum of these future cash flows to arrive at a present value estimate:
10-year free cash flow (FCF) forecast
|Levered FCF ($, Millions)||US$1.43b||US$1.25b||US$1.15b||US$1.09b||US$1.05b||US$1.04b||US$1.03b||US$1.04b||US$1.04b||US$1.06b|
|Growth Rate Estimate Source||Analyst x6||Analyst x3||Est @ -8.27%||Est @ -5.19%||Est @ -3.04%||Est @ -1.53%||Est @ -0.47%||Est @ 0.27%||Est @ 0.78%||Est @ 1.15%|
|Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 7.4%||US$1.3k||US$1.1k||US$925||US$817||US$738||US$676||US$627||US$585||US$549||US$517|
("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$7.9b
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 2.0%. We discount the terminal cash flows to today's value at a cost of equity of 7.4%.
Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2031 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$1.1b× (1 + 2.0%) ÷ (7.4%– 2.0%) = US$20b
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$20b÷ ( 1 + 7.4%)10= US$9.8b
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$18b. The last step is to then divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Compared to the current share price of US$86.9, the company appears quite undervalued at a 37% 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.
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 Westlake Chemical 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 7.4%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.145. 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.
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. Can we work out why the company is trading at a discount to intrinsic value? For Westlake Chemical, we've put together three important elements you should explore:
- Risks: Take risks, for example - Westlake Chemical has 2 warning signs (and 1 which is concerning) we think you should know about.
- Management:Have insiders been ramping up their shares to take advantage of the market's sentiment for WLK's future outlook? Check out our management and board analysis with insights on CEO compensation and governance factors.
- 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 NYSE 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.
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