Today we'll do a simple run through of a valuation method used to estimate the attractiveness of National Grid plc (LON:NG.) as an investment opportunity by taking the foreast future cash flows of the company and discounting them back to today's value. This is done 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. 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.
As National Grid operates in the integrated utilities sector, we need to calculate the intrinsic value slightly differently. In this approach dividends per share (DPS) are used, as free cash flow is difficult to estimate and often not reported by analysts. This often underestimates the value of a stock, but it can still be good as a comparison to competitors. We use the Gordon Growth Model, which assumes dividend will grow into perpetuity at a rate that can be sustained. 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 10-year government bond rate (0.5%). The expected dividend per share is then discounted to today's value at a cost of equity of 5.4%. Compared to the current share price of UK£9.4, the company appears about fair value at a 10% 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.
Value Per Share = Expected Dividend Per Share / (Discount Rate - Perpetual Growth Rate)
= UK£0.5 / (5.4% – 0.5%)
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. If you don't agree with these result, have a go at the calculation yourself and play with the 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 National Grid 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 5.4%, 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 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 National Grid, We've compiled three fundamental factors you should further research:
- Risks: For example, we've discovered 4 warning signs for National Grid (1 is concerning!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
- Future Earnings: How does NG.'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 LSE every day. If you want to find the calculation for other stocks just search here.
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.
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