Today we will run through one way of estimating the intrinsic value of Cognex Corporation (NASDAQ:CGNX) by estimating the company's future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. The Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model is the tool we will apply to do this. Models like these may appear beyond the comprehension of a lay person, but they're fairly easy to follow.
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 still have some burning questions about this type of valuation, take a look at the Simply Wall St analysis model.
Crunching the numbers
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.
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) estimate
|Levered FCF ($, Millions)||US$320.9m||US$371.4m||US$459.0m||US$504.0m||US$537.3m||US$565.2m||US$589.0m||US$609.7m||US$628.3m||US$645.3m|
|Growth Rate Estimate Source||Analyst x8||Analyst x8||Analyst x2||Analyst x1||Est @ 6.6%||Est @ 5.19%||Est @ 4.21%||Est @ 3.52%||Est @ 3.04%||Est @ 2.71%|
|Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 6.5%||US$301||US$328||US$380||US$392||US$393||US$388||US$380||US$369||US$357||US$345|
("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$3.6b
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 6.5%.
Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2031 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$645m× (1 + 1.9%) ÷ (6.5%– 1.9%) = US$14b
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$14b÷ ( 1 + 6.5%)10= US$7.7b
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$11b. To get the intrinsic value per share, we divide this by the total number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of US$50.0, the company appears a touch undervalued at a 23% 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 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 Cognex 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 6.5%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.074. 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.
Valuation is only one side of the coin in terms of building your investment thesis, and it is only one of many factors that you need to assess for a company. It's not possible to obtain a foolproof valuation with a DCF model. 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. Why is the intrinsic value higher than the current share price? For Cognex, there are three further elements you should further research:
- Risks: For example, we've discovered 1 warning sign for Cognex that you should be aware of before investing here.
- Future Earnings: How does CGNX'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 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. 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.
Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.
Find out whether Cognex is potentially over or undervalued by checking out our comprehensive analysis, which includes fair value estimates, risks and warnings, dividends, insider transactions and financial health.View the Free Analysis
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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.