In this article we are going to estimate the intrinsic value of Mersana Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:MRSN) by taking the foreast future cash flows of the company and discounting them back to today's value. I will be using the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. Don't get put off by the jargon, the math behind it is actually quite straightforward.
Companies can be valued in a lot of ways, so we would point out that a DCF is not perfect for every situation. Anyone interested in learning a bit more about intrinsic value should have a read of the Simply Wall St analysis model.
Is Mersana Therapeutics fairly valued?
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. 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.
A DCF is all about the idea that a dollar in the future is less valuable than a dollar today, and so the sum of these future cash flows is then discounted to today's value:
10-year free cash flow (FCF) estimate
|Levered FCF ($, Millions)||$-72.9m||$-77.3m||$-78.1m||$19.2m||$25.3m||$31.2m||$36.6m||$41.2m||$45.3m||$48.7m|
|Growth Rate Estimate Source||Analyst x3||Analyst x2||Analyst x2||Analyst x1||Est @ 32.02%||Est @ 23.23%||Est @ 17.08%||Est @ 12.78%||Est @ 9.76%||Est @ 7.65%|
|Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 10.25%||$-66.1||$-63.6||$-58.3||$13.0||$15.6||$17.4||$18.5||$18.9||$18.8||$18.4|
("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF)= $-67.5m
After calculating the present value of future cash flows in the intial 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 10-year government bond rate (2.7%) 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 10.3%.
Terminal Value (TV) = FCF2029 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$49m × (1 + 2.7%) ÷ (10.3% – 2.7%) = US$665m
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV) = TV / (1 + r)10 = $US$665m ÷ ( 1 + 10.3%)10 = $250.67m
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 $183.19m. To get the intrinsic value per share, we divide this by the total number of shares outstanding. This results in an intrinsic value estimate of $3.83. Compared to the current share price of $3.11, the company appears about fair value at a 19% discount to where the stock price trades currently. Valuations are imprecise instruments though, rather like a telescope - move a few degrees and end up in a different galaxy. Do keep this in mind.
Now the most important inputs to a discounted cash flow are the discount rate, and of course, the actual 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 Mersana Therapeutics 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 10.3%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.262. 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.
Whilst important, DCF calculation shouldn’t be the only metric you look at when researching a company. The DCF model is not a perfect stock valuation tool. Rather it should be seen as a guide to "what assumptions need to be true for this stock to be under/overvalued?" 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. For Mersana Therapeutics, I've compiled three pertinent factors you should look at:
- Financial Health: Does MRSN 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 MRSN'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: Are there other high quality stocks you could be holding instead of MRSN? 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 NASDAQ every day. If you want to find the calculation for other stocks just search here.
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