In this article we are going to estimate the intrinsic value of AutoZone, Inc. (NYSE:AZO) by estimating the company's future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. I will be using the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. It may sound complicated, but actually it is quite simple!
Companies can be valued in a lot of ways, so we would point out that a DCF is not perfect for every situation. 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.
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. To begin with, we have to get estimates of 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.
Generally we assume that a dollar today is more valuable than a dollar in the future, and so the sum of these future cash flows is then discounted to today's value:
10-year free cash flow (FCF) forecast
|Levered FCF ($, Millions)||$1.5b||$1.5b||$1.5b||$1.5b||$1.5b||$1.5b||$1.6b||$1.6b||$1.6b||$1.7b|
|Growth Rate Estimate Source||Analyst x6||Analyst x2||Est @ -0.93%||Est @ 0.17%||Est @ 0.94%||Est @ 1.47%||Est @ 1.85%||Est @ 2.11%||Est @ 2.3%||Est @ 2.43%|
|Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 8.58%||$1.4k||$1.3k||$1.2k||$1.1k||$996.4||$931.2||$873.5||$821.4||$773.9||$730.1|
("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF)= $10.0b
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 8.6%.
Terminal Value (TV) = FCF2029 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$1.7b × (1 + 2.7%) ÷ (8.6% – 2.7%) = US$29b
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV) = TV / (1 + r)10 = $US$29b ÷ ( 1 + 8.6%)10 = $12.82b
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 $22.83b. 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 $930.59. Compared to the current share price of $1096.12, the company appears around fair value at the time of writing. 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. 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 AutoZone 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 8.6%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.981. 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.
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. 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 AutoZone, I've put together three further aspects you should look at:
- Financial Health: Does AZO 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 AZO'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 AZO? 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 NYSE every day. If you want to find the calculation for other stocks just search here.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at email@example.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.