Stock Analysis

# Calculating The Intrinsic Value Of Essential Utilities, Inc. (NYSE:WTRG)

### Key Insights

• Using the Dividend Discount Model, Essential Utilities fair value estimate is US\$34.03
• Essential Utilities' US\$36.09 share price indicates it is trading at similar levels as its fair value estimate
• The US\$46.60 analyst price target for WTRG is 37% more than our estimate of fair value

In this article we are going to estimate the intrinsic value of Essential Utilities, Inc. (NYSE:WTRG) by estimating the company's future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. We will use the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model on this occasion. Before you think you won't be able to understand it, just read on! It's actually much less complex than you'd imagine.

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 Essential Utilities

## Crunching The Numbers

As Essential Utilities operates in the water utilities sector, we need to calculate the intrinsic value slightly differently. 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. 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. 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 (2.2%). The expected dividend per share is then discounted to today's value at a cost of equity of 6.2%. Compared to the current share price of US\$36.1, 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\$1.4 / (6.2% – 2.2%)

= US\$34.0

## Important Assumptions

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. 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 Essential Utilities 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 6.2%, 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.

### SWOT Analysis for Essential Utilities

Strength
• Earnings growth over the past year exceeded the industry.
Weakness
• Earnings growth over the past year is below its 5-year average.
• Interest payments on debt are not well covered.
• Dividend is low compared to the top 25% of dividend payers in the Water Utilities market.
• Expensive based on P/E ratio and estimated fair value.
• Shareholders have been diluted in the past year.
Opportunity
• Annual earnings are forecast to grow for the next 3 years.
Threat
• Debt is not well covered by operating cash flow.
• Paying a dividend but company has no free cash flows.
• Annual earnings are forecast to grow slower than the American market.

Valuation is only one side of the coin in terms of building your investment thesis, and it shouldn't be the only metric you look at when researching a company. DCF models are not the be-all and end-all of investment valuation. 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 Essential Utilities, there are three essential items you should explore:

1. Risks: For instance, we've identified 3 warning signs for Essential Utilities (1 makes us a bit uncomfortable) you should be aware of.
2. Future Earnings: How does WTRG'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. 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 here to simplify it.

Discover if Essential Utilities might be undervalued or overvalued with our detailed analysis, featuring fair value estimates, potential risks, dividends, insider trades, and its financial condition.

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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.