Stock Analysis

A Look At The Fair Value Of NorthWestern Corporation (NASDAQ:NWE)

NasdaqGS:NWE
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Does the December share price for NorthWestern Corporation (NASDAQ:NWE) reflect what it's really worth? Today, we will estimate the stock's intrinsic value by projecting its future cash flows and then discounting them to today's value. We will use the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model on this occasion. Don't get put off by the jargon, the math behind it is actually quite straightforward.

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. If you still have some burning questions about this type of valuation, take a look at the Simply Wall St analysis model.

Check out the opportunities and risks within the US Integrated Utilities industry.

Is NorthWestern Fairly Valued?

As NorthWestern operates in the integrated utilities sector, we need to calculate the intrinsic value slightly differently. In this approach dividends per share (DPS) are used, as free cash flow is difficult to estimate and often not reported by analysts. This often underestimates the value of a stock, but it can still be good as a comparison to competitors. The 'Gordon Growth Model' is used, which simply assumes that dividend payments will continue to increase at a sustainable growth rate forever. The dividend is expected to grow at an annual growth rate equal to the 5-year average of the 10-year government bond yield of 2.0%. We then discount this figure to today's value at a cost of equity of 6.4%. Relative to the current share price of US$57.5, the company appears about fair value at a 1.4% 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.

Value Per Share = Expected Dividend Per Share / (Discount Rate - Perpetual Growth Rate)

= US$2.6 / (6.4% – 2.0%)

= US$58.3

dcf
NasdaqGS:NWE Discounted Cash Flow December 8th 2022

Important Assumptions

The calculation above is very dependent on two assumptions. The first is the discount rate and the other is the 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 NorthWestern 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 6.4%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.800. 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.

Looking Ahead:

Whilst important, the DCF calculation ideally won't be the sole piece of analysis you scrutinize 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 instance, if the terminal value growth rate is adjusted slightly, it can dramatically alter the overall result. For NorthWestern, we've put together three additional aspects you should explore:

  1. Risks: We feel that you should assess the 3 warning signs for NorthWestern (1 is potentially serious!) we've flagged before making an investment in the company.
  2. Future Earnings: How does NWE'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.
  3. 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.

Valuation is complex, but we're helping make it simple.

Find out whether NorthWestern Energy Group 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.