Today we'll do a simple run through of a valuation method used to estimate the attractiveness of Itron, Inc. (NASDAQ:ITRI) as an investment opportunity by estimating the company's future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. One way to achieve this is by employing 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.
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. Anyone interested in learning a bit more about intrinsic value should have a read of the Simply Wall St analysis model.
Crunching the numbers
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 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, 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$103.0m||US$177.1m||US$343.2m||US$289.6m||US$325.4m||US$351.8m||US$373.9m||US$392.7m||US$408.9m||US$423.2m|
|Growth Rate Estimate Source||Analyst x6||Analyst x5||Analyst x4||Analyst x1||Analyst x1||Est @ 8.11%||Est @ 6.29%||Est @ 5.02%||Est @ 4.12%||Est @ 3.5%|
|Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 8.8%||US$94.6||US$149||US$266||US$206||US$213||US$212||US$207||US$199||US$191||US$181|
("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$1.9b
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 8.8%.
Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2030 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$423m× (1 + 2.0%) ÷ (8.8%– 2.0%) = US$6.3b
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$6.3b÷ ( 1 + 8.8%)10= US$2.7b
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$4.6b. In the final step we divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Compared to the current share price of US$89.9, the company appears about fair value at a 12% 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. You don't have to agree with these inputs, I recommend redoing the calculations yourself and playing with them. 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 Itron 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 8.8%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.301. 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 shouldn't be the only metric you look at when researching 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. For Itron, we've compiled three additional factors you should consider:
- Risks: Case in point, we've spotted 3 warning signs for Itron you should be aware of.
- Management:Have insiders been ramping up their shares to take advantage of the market's sentiment for ITRI'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 NASDAQGS 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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