What Is Intrinsic Value?

Intrinsic value is the perceived or calculated value of an asset, an investment, or a company. The term finds use in fundamental analysis to estimate the value of a company and its cash flows. Another use of intrinsic value is in the amount of profit that exists in an options contract.

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Intrinsic Value

Intrinsic Value Explained

Intrinsic value is an umbrella term with useful meanings in several areas. An analyst or investor may estimate the value of an investment, asset, project, or a company finding its intrinsic value through the use of fundamental and technical analysis. If they are calculating the intrinsic value of a company or the value of its stock price, there are a couple of ways of approaching it.

Intrinsic value can be calculated using fundamental analysis to look at aspects of a business that include both qualitative—such as business model, governance, and target market factors—and quantitative—such as financial ratios and financial statement analysis. The resulting value is compared to the market value to determine whether the business or asset is over- or undervalued.

The intrinsic value uses assumptions, and the result is somewhat subjective. Some analysts and investors might place a higher weighting on a corporation's management team while others might view earnings and revenue as the gold standard. For example, a company might have steady profits, but the management has violated the law or government regulations, the stock price would likely decline. By performing an analysis of the company's financials, however, the findings might show that the company is undervalued.

Typically, investors try to use both qualitative and quantitative to measure the intrinsic value of a company, but investors should keep in mind that the result is still only an estimate.

Key Takeaways

  • Intrinsic value is the perceived or calculated value of an asset, an investment, or a company.
  • Intrinsic value is used in fundamental analysis to value a company and its cash flows.
  • Intrinsic value is also the amount of profit that exists in an options contract.

Discounted Cash Flow and Intrinsic Value

The discounted cash flow (DCF) model is a commonly used valuation method to determine a company's intrinsic value. The DCF model uses a company's free cash flow and the weighted average cost of capital (WACC). WACC accounts for the time value of money and then discounts all its future cash flow back to the present day.

The weighted-average cost of capital is the expected rate of return that investors want to earn that's above the company's cost of capital. A company raises capital funding by issuing debt such as bonds and equity or stock shares. The DCF model also estimates the future revenue streams that might be received from a project or investment in a company. Ideally, the rate of return and intrinsic value should be above the company's cost of capital.

The future cash flows are discounted meaning the risk-free rate of return that could be earned instead of pursuing the project or investment is factored into the equation. In other words, the return on the investment must be greater than the risk-free rate. Otherwise, the project wouldn't be worth pursuing since there might be a risk of a loss. A U.S. Treasury yield is typically used as the risk-free rate, which can also be called the discount rate.

Market Risk and Intrinsic Value

A market risk element is also estimated in many quantitative models. For stocks, the risk is measured by beta—an estimation of how much the stock price could fluctuate or its volatility. A beta of one is considered neutral or correlated with the overall market. A beta greater than one means a stock has an increased risk of volatility while a beta of less than one means it has less risk than the overall market. If a stock has a high beta, there should be greater return from the cash flows to compensate for the increased risks as compared to an investment with a low beta.

As we can see, calculating the intrinsic value of a company involves various factors, some of which are estimations and assumptions. An investor using qualitative analysis can't know how effective a management team will be or whether they might have a scandal in the near future. Also, using quantitative measures for determining intrinsic value might understate the market risk involved in a company or overestimate the expected revenue or cash flows. What if a new product launch for a company didn't go as planned? The expected future cash flows would undoubtedly be lower than the original estimates making the intrinsic value of the company much lower than had previously been determined.

Intrinsic value is a core concept of value investors seeking to uncover hidden investment opportunities. To calculate intrinsic value, you need to have a strong understanding of fundamental analysis. Investopedia's Fundamental Analysis Course will show you how to calculate the true value of a stock and capitalize on undervalued opportunities. You'll learn how to read financial statements, use ratios to determine value quickly, as well as learn other techniques used by professionals in over five hours of on-demand videos, exercises, and interactive content.

Intrinsic Value of Options Contracts

Intrinsic value is also used in options pricing to determine how in-the-money an option is or how much profit currently exists.

For review, an options contract grants the buyer the right, but not the commitment, to buy or sell the underlying security at a preset price called the strike price. Options have expiration dates at which they can be exercised or converted to the shares of the underlying security. A call option allows an investor to buy assets such as a stock while a put option allows an investor to sell the asset. If the market price at expiration is above the strike price, the call option is profitable or in-the-money. If the market price is below the strike of the put option, the put is profitable. If either option is not profitable at expiry, the options expire worthlessly, and the buyer loses the upfront fee or premium paid at the onset.

The intrinsic value of both call and put options is the difference between the underlying stock's price and the strike price. In the case of both call and put options, if the calculated value is negative, the intrinsic value is zero. In other words, intrinsic value only measures the profit as determined by the difference between the option's strike price and market price.

However, other factors can determine the value of an option and its resulting premium. The extrinsic value takes into account other external factors that affect an option's price, such as how much time is remaining until expiration or time value.

If an option has no intrinsic value meaning the strike price and the market price are equal, it might still have extrinsic value if there's enough time left before expiration to make a profit. As a result, the amount of time value that an option has an impact on an option's premium. Both intrinsic value and extrinsic value combine to make up the total value of an option's price.

Pros

  • Intrinsic value helps determine the value of an asset, an investment, or a company.

  • Intrinsic value provides the amount of profit that exists in an options contract.

Cons

  • Calculating the intrinsic value of a company is subjective since it estimates risk and future cash flows.

  • The intrinsic value of an option is incomplete since it doesn't include the premium paid and time value.

Example of an Option's Intrinsic Value

Let's say a call option's strike price is $15, and the underlying stock's market price is $25 per share. The intrinsic value of the call option is $10 or the $25 stock price minus the $15 strike price. If the option premium paid at the onset of the trade were $2, the total profit would be $8 if the intrinsic value was $10 at expiry.

On the other hand, let's say an investor purchases a put option with a strike price of $20 for a $5 premium when the underlying stock was trading at $16 per share. The intrinsic value of the put option would be calculated by taking the $20 strike price and subtracting the $16 stock price or $4 in-the-money. If the intrinsic value of the option were only worth $4 at expiry, combined with the premium paid of $5, the investor would have a loss despite the option being in-the-money.

It's important to note the intrinsic value does not include the premium meaning it's not the true profit of the trade since it doesn't include the initial cost. Intrinsic value only shows how in-the-money an option is considering its strike price and the market price of the underlying asset.