Decisions to invest can be made based on simple analysis such as finding a company you like with a product you think will be in demand in the future. The decision might not be based on scouring the financial statements, but the underlying reason for picking this type of company over another is still sound. Your underlying prediction is that the company will continue to produce and sell high-demand products and thus will have cash flowing back to the business. The second, and very important, part of the equation is that the company's management knows where to spend this cash to continue operations. A third assumption is that all of these potential future cash flows are worth more today than the stock's current price.

TUTORIAL: Cash Flow Indicator Ratios

To place numbers into this idea, we could look at these potential cash flows from the operations, and find what they are worth based on their present value. In order to determine the value of a firm, an investor must determine the present value of operating free cash flows. Of course, we need to find the cash flows before we can discount them to the present value.

Calculating Operating Free Cash Flow
Operating free cash flow (OFCF) is the cash generated by operations, which is attributed to all providers of capital in the firm's capital structure. This includes debt providers as well as equity. Calculating the OFCF is done by taking earnings before interest and taxes and adjusting for the tax rate, then adding depreciation and taking away capital expenditure, minus change in working capital and minus changes in other assets. Here is the actual formula:

OFCF = EBIT(1-T) + depreciation - CAPEX - D working capital - D any other assets

EBIT = earnings before interest and taxes
T= tax rate
CAPEX = capital expenditure

This is also referred to as the free cash flow to the firm, and is calculated in such as way to reflect the overall cash-generating capabilities of the firm before deducting debt related interest expenses and non-cash items. Once we have calculated this number, we can calculate the other metrics needed such as the growth rate. (These five qualitative measures allow investors to draw conclusions about a corporation that are not apparent on the balance sheet. check out Using Porter's 5 Forces To Analyze Stocks.)

Calculating the Growth Rate
The growth rate can be difficult to predict and can have a drastic effect on the resulting value of the firm. One way to calculate it is to take the return on the invested capital (ROIC) multiplied by the retention rate. The retention is the percent of earnings that are held within the company and are not paid out as dividends. This is the basic formula:

g = RR x ROIC

RR= average retention rate, or (1- payout ratio)
ROIC= EBIT(1-tax)/total capital

Present Value of Operating Free Cash Flows
The valuation method is based on the operating cash flows coming in after deducting the capital expenditures, which are the costs of maintaining the asset base. This cash flow is taken before the interest payments to debt holders in order to value the total firm. Only factoring in equity, for example, would provide the growing value to equity holders. Discounting any stream of cash flows requires a discount rate, and in this case it is the cost of financing projects at the firm. The weighted average cost of capital (WACC) is used for this discount rate. The operating free cash flow is then discounted at this cost of capital rate using three potential growth scenarios; no growth, constant growth and changing growth rate.

No Growth
To find the value of the firm, discount the OFCF by the WACC. This discounts the cash flows that are expected to continue for as long as a reasonable forecasting model exists.

Firm Value = S Operating Free Cash Flowst

Operating Free Cash Flows = the operating free cash flows in period t
WACC = weighted average cost of capital

If you are looking to find an estimate for the value of the firm's equity, subtract the market value of the firm's debt.

Constant Growth
In a more mature company you might find it more appropriate to include a constant growth rate in the calculation. To calculate the value, take the OFCF of next period and discount it at WACC minus the long-term constant growth rate of the OFCF.

Value of the firm = SOFCF1

OFCF1 = operating free cash flow
k = discount rate (in this case WACC)
g = expected growth rate in OFCF

Multiple Growth Periods
Assuming the firm is about to see more than one growth stage, the calculation is a combination of each of these stages. Using the supernormal dividend growth model for the calculation, the analyst needs to predict the higher-than-normal growth and the expected duration of such activity. After this high growth, the firm might be expected to go back into a normal steady growth into perpetuity. To see the resulting calculations, assume a firm has operating free cash flows of $200 million, which is expected to grow at 12% for four years. After four years, it will return to a normal growth rate of 5%. We will assume that the weighted average cost of capital is 10%. (Learn about the components of the statement of financial position and how they relate to each other. See Reading The Balance Sheet.)

Multi-Growth Periods of Operating Free Cash Flow (in Millions)

Period OFCF Calculation Amount Present Value
1 OFCF1 $200 x 1.121 $224.00 $203.64
2 OFCF 2 $200 x 1.122 $250.88 $207.34
3 OFCF 3 $200 x 1.123 $280.99 $211.11
4 OFCF 4 $200 x 1.124 $314.70 $214.95
5 OFCF 5 $314.7 x 1.05 $330.44
$330.44 / (0.10 - 0.05) $6,608.78
$6,608.78 / 1.104 $4,513.89
NPV $5,350.92
Table 1: The two stages of the OFCF goes from a high growth rate (12%) for four years followed by a perpetual constant 5% growth from the fifth year on. It is discounted back to the present value and summed up to $5.35 billion dollars.

Both the two-stage dividend discount model (DDM) and FCFE model allow for two distinct phases of growth: an initial finite period where the growth is abnormal, followed by a stable growth period that is expected to last forever. In order to determine the long-term sustainable growth rate, one would usually assume that the rate of growth will equal the long-term forecasted GDP growth. In each case the cash flow is discounted to the present dollar amount and added together to get a net present value.

Comparing this to the company's current stock price can be a valid way of determining the company's intrinsic value. Recall that we need to subtract the total current value of the firm's debt to get the value of the equity. Then, divide the equity value by common shares outstanding to get the value of equity per share. This value can then be compared to how much the stock is selling for in the market to see if it is over- or undervalued.

The Bottom Line
Calculations dealing with the value of a firm will always use unique methods based on the firm being examined. Growth companies might need a two-period method when there is higher growth for a couple years. In a larger, more mature company you can use a more stable growth technique. It always comes down to determining the value of the free cash flows and discounting them to today. (Calculate whether the market is paying too much for a particular stock. check out DCF Valuation: The Stock Market Sanity Check.)

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Time to Bring Active Back into a Portfolio?

    While stocks have rallied since the economic recovery in 2009, many active portfolio managers have struggled to deliver investor returns in excess.
  2. Investing

    What a Family Tradition Taught Me About Investing

    We share some lessons from friends and family on saving money and planning for retirement.
  3. Professionals

    The Best Financial Modeling Courses for Investment Bankers

    Obtain information, both general and comparative, about the best available financial modeling courses for individuals pursuing a career in investment banking.
  4. Investing

    Where the Price is Right for Dividends

    There are two broad schools of thought for equity income investing: The first pays the highest dividend yields and the second focuses on healthy yields.
  5. Economics

    Investing Opportunities as Central Banks Diverge

    After the Paris attacks investors are focusing on central bank policy and its potential for divergence: tightened by the Fed while the ECB pursues easing.
  6. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in Pfizer Stock

    Learn the biggest potential risks that may affect the price of Pfizer's stock, complete with a fundamental analysis and review of other external factors.
  7. Personal Finance

    How Tech Can Help with 3 Behavioral Finance Biases

    Even if you’re a finance or statistics expert, you’re not immune to common decision-making mistakes that can negatively impact your finances.
  8. Technical Indicators

    Using Pivot Points For Predictions

    Learn one of the most common methods of finding support and resistance levels.
  9. Investing Basics

    5 Tips For Diversifying Your Portfolio

    A diversified portfolio will protect you in a tough market. Get some solid tips here!
  10. Entrepreneurship

    Identifying And Managing Business Risks

    There are a lot of risks associated with running a business, but there are an equal number of ways to prepare for and manage them.
  1. Do you discount working capital in net present value (NPV)?

    Net present value (NPV) calculations should include the discounted value of changes in working capital. This treatment of ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. How is working capital different from fixed capital?

    There are several key differences between working capital and fixed capital. Most importantly, these two forms of capital ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Have hedge funds eroded market opportunities?

    Hedge funds have not eroded market opportunities for longer-term investors. Many investors incorrectly assume they cannot ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How can working capital affect a company's finances?

    Working capital, or total current assets minus total current liabilities, can affect a company's longer-term investment effectiveness ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are working capital costs?

    Working capital costs (WCC) refer to the costs of maintaining daily operations at an organization. These costs take into ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What does low working capital say about a company's financial prospects?

    When a company has low working capital, it can mean one of two things. In most cases, low working capital means the business ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Take A Bath

    A slang term referring to the situation of an investor who has experienced a large loss from an investment or speculative ...
  2. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  3. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  4. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
  5. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  6. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
Trading Center