Today we'll do a simple run through of a valuation method used to estimate the attractiveness of Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOGL) as an investment opportunity by projecting its future cash flows and then discounting them to today's value. The Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model is the tool we will apply to do this. Don't get put off by the jargon, the math behind it is actually quite straightforward.
We would caution that there are many ways of valuing a company and, like the DCF, each technique has advantages and disadvantages in certain scenarios. If you want to learn more about discounted cash flow, the rationale behind this calculation can be read in detail in the Simply Wall St analysis model.
Crunching The Numbers
We use what is known as a 2-stage model, which simply means we have two different periods of growth rates for the company's cash flows. Generally the first stage is higher growth, and the second stage is a lower growth phase. In the first stage we need to estimate the cash flows to the business over the next ten years. 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.
Generally we assume that a dollar today is more valuable than a dollar in the future, 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 ($, Millions)
Growth Rate Estimate Source
Est @ 6.94%
Est @ 5.45%
Est @ 4.41%
Est @ 3.68%
Est @ 3.17%
Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 7.8%
("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$819b
We now need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all the future cash flows after this ten year period. The Gordon Growth formula is used to calculate Terminal Value at a future annual growth rate equal to the 5-year average of the 10-year government bond yield of 2.0%. We discount the terminal cash flows to today's value at a cost of equity of 7.8%.
Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2032 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$163b× (1 + 2.0%) ÷ (7.8%– 2.0%) = US$2.9t
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$2.9t÷ ( 1 + 7.8%)10= US$1.4t
The total value, or equity value, is then the sum of the present value of the future cash flows, which in this case is US$2.2t. To get the intrinsic value per share, we divide this by the total number of shares outstanding. Compared to the current share price of US$88.2, the company appears quite undervalued at a 48% discount to where the stock price trades currently. Remember though, that this is just an approximate valuation, and like any complex formula - garbage in, garbage out.
The calculation above is very dependent on two assumptions. The first is the discount rate and the other is the 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 Alphabet 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 7.8%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.039. 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 Alphabet
Debt is not viewed as a risk.
Earnings declined over the past year.
Annual revenue is forecast to grow faster than the American market.
Good value based on P/E ratio and estimated fair value.
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. Preferably you'd apply different cases and assumptions and see how they would impact the company's valuation. 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. Can we work out why the company is trading at a discount to intrinsic value? For Alphabet, there are three relevant aspects you should further examine:
Financial Health: Does GOOGL have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.
Future Earnings: How does GOOGL'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 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. 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.
Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.
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.
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