Today we will run through one way of estimating the intrinsic value of Charter Communications, Inc. (NASDAQ:CHTR) by taking the expected future cash flows and discounting them to today's value. The Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model is the tool we will apply to do this. Believe it or not, it's not too difficult to follow, as you'll see from our example!
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.
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) forecast
|Levered FCF ($, Millions)||US$7.43b||US$7.65b||US$8.23b||US$9.75b||US$10.7b||US$11.5b||US$12.1b||US$12.6b||US$13.1b||US$13.5b|
|Growth Rate Estimate Source||Analyst x16||Analyst x14||Analyst x9||Analyst x8||Analyst x7||Est @ 6.81%||Est @ 5.36%||Est @ 4.35%||Est @ 3.64%||Est @ 3.15%|
|Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 7.3%||US$6.9k||US$6.6k||US$6.7k||US$7.4k||US$7.6k||US$7.5k||US$7.4k||US$7.2k||US$6.9k||US$6.7k|
("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$71b
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 (2.0%) 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 7.3%.
Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2030 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$13b× (1 + 2.0%) ÷ (7.3%– 2.0%) = US$260b
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$260b÷ ( 1 + 7.3%)10= US$129b
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$199b. To get the intrinsic value per share, we divide this by the total number of shares outstanding. Compared to the current share price of US$695, the company appears a touch undervalued at a 26% 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.
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. Part of investing is coming up with your own evaluation of a company's future performance, so try the calculation yourself and check your own 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 Charter Communications 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 7.3%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.121. 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.
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. 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 Charter Communications, we've compiled three pertinent elements you should assess:
- Risks: Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 2 warning signs with Charter Communications (at least 1 which is a bit unpleasant) , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.
- Future Earnings: How does CHTR'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.
- 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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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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