Share ownership in a private company is usually quite difficult to value due to the absence of a public market for the shares. Unlike public companies that have the price per share widely available, shareholders of private companies have to use a variety of methods to determine the approximate value of their shares.

Key Takeaways

  • Unlike public companies that have their price per share readily available, certain methods must be used to value private companies.
  • Methods for valuing private companies could include valuation ratios, discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis, or internal rate of return (IRR).
  • The most common method for valuing a private company is comparable company analysis, which compares the valuation ratios of the private company to a comparable public company.
  • There's also the DCF valuation, which is more complicated than a comparable company analysis.
  • Valuation of private shares is often a common occurrence to settle a shareholder dispute or inheritance, or when shareholders are seeking to exit the business.

Some common methods of valuing private companies include comparing valuation ratios, discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis, net tangible assets, internal rate of return (IRR), and many others.

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How Do I Value Shares I Own In A Private Company?

Comparative Company Analysis

The most common method and easiest to implement is to compare valuation ratios for the private company versus ratios of a comparable public company. If you are able to find a company or group of companies of relatively the same size and similar business operations, then you can take the valuation multiples such as the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio and apply it to the private company.

For example, say your private company makes widgets and a similar-sized public company also makes widgets. Being a public company, you have access to that company's financial statements and valuation ratios.

If the public company has a P/E ratio of 15, this means investors are willing to pay $15 for every $1 of the company's earnings per share (EPS). In this simplistic example, you may find it reasonable to apply that ratio to your own company.

If your company had earnings of $2 per share, you would multiply it by 15 and would get a share price of $30 per share. If you own 10,000 shares, your equity stake would be worth approximately $300,000.

You can do this for many types of ratios—book value, revenue, operating income, etc. Some methods use several types of ratios to calculate per-share values and an average of all the values would be taken to approximate equity value.

Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) Valuation

DCF analysis is also a popular method for equity valuation. This method utilizes the financial properties of the time-value of money by forecasting future free cash flow (FCF) and discounting each cash flow by a certain discount rate to calculate its present value.

This is more complex than a comparative analysis and its implementation requires many more assumptions and "educated guesses." Specifically, you have to forecast the future operating cash flows, capital expenditures (CapEx), growth rates and an appropriate discount rate.

Valuation of private shares is often a common occurrence to settle shareholder disputes, when shareholders are seeking to exit the business, for an inheritance, and many other reasons.

There are numerous businesses that specialize in equity valuations for private business and are frequently used for a professional opinion regarding the equity value in order to resolve the issues listed.