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Today we'll do a simple run through of a valuation method used to estimate the attractiveness of CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (NYSE:CNP) as an investment opportunity by taking the expected future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. This will be done using the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. It may sound complicated, but actually it is quite simple!
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. Anyone interested in learning a bit more about intrinsic value should have a read of the Simply Wall St analysis model.
Crunching the numbers
As CenterPoint Energy operates in the integrated utilities sector, we need to calculate the intrinsic value slightly differently. Instead of using free cash flows, which are hard to estimate and often not reported by analysts in this industry, dividends per share (DPS) payments are used. This often underestimates the value of a stock, but it can still be good as a comparison to competitors. The 'Gordon Growth Model' is used, which simply assumes that dividend payments will continue to increase at a sustainable growth rate forever. For a number of reasons a very conservative growth rate is used that cannot exceed that of a company's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In this case we used the 5-year average of the 10-year government bond yield (2.0%). The expected dividend per share is then discounted to today's value at a cost of equity of 5.5%. Relative to the current share price of US$25.5, the company appears slightly overvalued at the time of writing. Remember though, that this is just an approximate valuation, and like any complex formula - garbage in, garbage out.
Value Per Share = Expected Dividend Per Share / (Discount Rate - Perpetual Growth Rate)
= US$0.7 / (5.5% – 2.0%)
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. 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 CenterPoint Energy 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 5.5%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.800. 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 is only one of many factors that you need to assess for a company. DCF models are not the be-all and end-all of investment valuation. Rather it should be seen as a guide to "what assumptions need to be true for this stock to be under/overvalued?" For example, changes in the company's cost of equity or the risk free rate can significantly impact the valuation. What is the reason for the share price exceeding the intrinsic value? For CenterPoint Energy, there are three fundamental aspects you should further research:
Risks: Every company has them, and we've spotted 3 warning signs for CenterPoint Energy (of which 1 is concerning!) you should know about.
Future Earnings: How does CNP'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 NYSE 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. 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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