Are Investors Undervaluing WEC Energy Group, Inc. (NYSE:WEC) By 50%?

By
Simply Wall St
Published
January 14, 2022
NYSE:WEC
Source: Shutterstock

Today we will run through one way of estimating the intrinsic value of WEC Energy Group, Inc. (NYSE:WEC) by taking the expected future cash flows and discounting them to today's value. We will use the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model on this occasion. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for WEC Energy Group

The method

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.

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

2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030 2031
Levered FCF ($, Millions) -US$443.0m -US$454.0m US$195.0m US$618.0m US$1.01b US$1.46b US$1.93b US$2.38b US$2.77b US$3.11b
Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x1 Analyst x1 Analyst x1 Analyst x1 Est @ 63.32% Est @ 44.91% Est @ 32.02% Est @ 23% Est @ 16.69% Est @ 12.27%
Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 5.5% -US$420 -US$408 US$166 US$500 US$774 US$1.1k US$1.3k US$1.6k US$1.7k US$1.8k

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$8.1b

The second stage is also known as Terminal Value, this is the business's cash flow after the first stage. 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 5.5%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2031 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$3.1b× (1 + 2.0%) ÷ (5.5%– 2.0%) = US$91b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$91b÷ ( 1 + 5.5%)10= US$53b

The total value is the sum of cash flows for the next ten years plus the discounted terminal value, which results in the Total Equity Value, which in this case is US$61b. The last step is to then divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Compared to the current share price of US$97.3, the company appears quite undervalued at a 50% 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.

dcf
NYSE:WEC Discounted Cash Flow January 14th 2022

Important assumptions

Now 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 WEC Energy Group 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 5.5%, 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.

Moving On:

Although the valuation of a company is important, it is only one of many factors that you need to assess for a company. The DCF model is not a perfect stock valuation tool. 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. What is the reason for the share price sitting below the intrinsic value? For WEC Energy Group, there are three fundamental aspects you should assess:

  1. Risks: To that end, you should be aware of the 1 warning sign we've spotted with WEC Energy Group .
  2. Future Earnings: How does WEC'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 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. The Simply Wall St app conducts a discounted cash flow valuation for every stock on the NYSE every day. If you want to find the calculation for other stocks just search here.

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