Today we'll do a simple run through of a valuation method used to estimate the attractiveness of Image Sensing Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:ISNS) as an investment opportunity by estimating the company's future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. Our analysis will employ the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. Models like these may appear beyond the comprehension of a lay person, but they're fairly easy to follow.
Remember though, that there are many ways to estimate a company's value, and a DCF is just one method. For those who are keen learners of equity analysis, the Simply Wall St analysis model here may be something of interest to you.
We have to calculate the value of Image Sensing Systems slightly differently to other stocks because it is a electronic company. Instead of using free cash flows, which are hard to estimate and often not reported by analysts in this industry, dividends per share (DPS) payments are used. Unless a company pays out the majority of its FCF as a dividend, this method will typically underestimate the value of the stock. We use the Gordon Growth Model, which assumes dividend will grow into perpetuity at a rate that can be sustained. For a number of reasons a very conservative growth rate is used that cannot exceed that of a company's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In this case we used the 5-year average of the 10-year government bond yield (2.0%). The expected dividend per share is then discounted to today's value at a cost of equity of 8.4%. Compared to the current share price of US$7.9, the company appears around fair value at the time of writing. 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.
Value Per Share = Expected Dividend Per Share / (Discount Rate - Perpetual Growth Rate)
= US$0.5 / (8.4% – 2.0%)
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 Image Sensing Systems 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 8.4%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.350. 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 is only one of many factors that you need to assess for a company. DCF models are not the be-all and end-all of investment valuation. 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 example, changes in the company's cost of equity or the risk free rate can significantly impact the valuation. For Image Sensing Systems, we've put together three pertinent factors you should further examine:
- Risks: Every company has them, and we've spotted 4 warning signs for Image Sensing Systems you should know about.
- Management:Have insiders been ramping up their shares to take advantage of the market's sentiment for ISNS's future outlook? Check out our management and board analysis with insights on CEO compensation and governance factors.
- 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. The Simply Wall St app conducts a discounted cash flow valuation for every stock on the NASDAQCM 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. 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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