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Today we'll do a simple run through of a valuation method used to estimate the attractiveness of Luna Innovations Incorporated (NASDAQ:LUNA) as an investment opportunity by taking the expected future cash flows and discounting them to today's value. Our analysis will employ the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. Before you think you won't be able to understand it, just read on! It's actually much less complex than you'd imagine.
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. If you still have some burning questions about this type of valuation, take a look at the Simply Wall St analysis model.
What's the estimated valuation?
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.
A DCF is all about the idea that a dollar in the future is less valuable than a dollar today, so we need to discount the sum of these future cash flows to arrive at a present value estimate:
10-year free cash flow (FCF) forecast
Levered FCF ($, Millions)
Growth Rate Estimate Source
Est @ 17.82%
Est @ 13.07%
Est @ 9.75%
Est @ 7.42%
Est @ 5.79%
Est @ 4.65%
Est @ 3.85%
Est @ 3.29%
Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 7.7%
("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$167m
We now need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all the future cash flows after this ten year period. 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 5-year average of the 10-year government bond yield (2.0%) 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 7.7%.
Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2030 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$34m× (1 + 2.0%) ÷ (7.7%– 2.0%) = US$601m
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$601m÷ ( 1 + 7.7%)10= US$286m
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$453m. To get the intrinsic value per share, we divide this by the total number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of US$10.9, the company appears a touch undervalued at a 25% 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. 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 Luna Innovations 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 7.7%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.210. 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. Instead the best use for a DCF model is to test certain assumptions and theories to see if they would lead to the company being undervalued or overvalued. For example, changes in the company's cost of equity or the risk free rate can significantly impact the valuation. Why is the intrinsic value higher than the current share price? For Luna Innovations, we've compiled three further items you should consider:
Risks: For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Luna Innovations that you should be aware of before investing here.
Future Earnings: How does LUNA'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 NASDAQCM 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. 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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