How far off is Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ALXN) from its intrinsic value? Using the most recent financial data, we'll take a look at whether the stock is fairly priced 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. Before you think you won't be able to understand it, just read on! It's actually much less complex than you'd imagine.
We generally believe that a company's value is the present value of all of the cash it will generate in the future. However, a DCF is just one valuation metric among many, and it is not without flaws. If you still have some burning questions about this type of valuation, take a look at the Simply Wall St analysis model.
Step by step through the calculation
We're using the 2-stage growth model, which simply means we take in account two stages of company's growth. In the initial period the company may have a higher growth rate and the second stage is usually assumed to have a stable growth rate. 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.
A DCF is all about the idea that a dollar in the future is less valuable than a dollar today, so we discount the value of these future cash flows to their estimated value in today's dollars:
10-year free cash flow (FCF) forecast
Levered FCF ($, Millions)
Growth Rate Estimate Source
Est @ 4.18%
Est @ 3.53%
Est @ 3.07%
Est @ 2.74%
Est @ 2.52%
Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 6.6%
("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$26b
After calculating the present value of future cash flows in the initial 10-year period, we need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all future cash flows beyond 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 6.6%.
Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2030 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$4.4b× (1 + 2.0%) ÷ (6.6%– 2.0%) = US$97b
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$97b÷ ( 1 + 6.6%)10= US$51b
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$77b. The last step is to then divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of US$175, the company appears quite undervalued at a 50% discount to where the stock price trades currently. The assumptions in any calculation have a big impact on the valuation, so it is better to view this as a rough estimate, not precise down to the last cent.
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. 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 Alexion Pharmaceuticals 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 6.6%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.978. 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.
Although the valuation of a company is important, 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. 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 example, changes in the company's cost of equity or the risk free rate can significantly impact the valuation. Why is the intrinsic value higher than the current share price? For Alexion Pharmaceuticals, there are three pertinent aspects you should further research:
Risks: For instance, we've identified 2 warning signs for Alexion Pharmaceuticals that you should be aware of.
Future Earnings: How does ALXN'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.
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 NASDAQGS every day. If you want to find the calculation for other stocks just search here.
This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.
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