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Today we'll do a simple run through of a valuation method used to estimate the attractiveness of Align Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:ALGN) as an investment opportunity by projecting its future cash flows and then discounting them to today's value. I will use the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. It may sound complicated, but actually it is quite simple!
Remember though, that there are many ways to estimate a company's value, and a DCF is just one method. Anyone interested in learning a bit more about intrinsic value should have a read of the Simply Wall St analysis model.
Crunching the numbers
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, so we discount the value of these future cash flows to their estimated value in today's dollars:
10-year free cash flow (FCF) estimate
|Levered FCF ($, Millions)||$422.43||$598.78||$897.47||$1.11k||$1.31k||$1.48k||$1.63k||$1.76k||$1.87k||$1.97k|
|Growth Rate Estimate Source||Analyst x4||Analyst x4||Analyst x3||Est @ 24.02%||Est @ 17.64%||Est @ 13.16%||Est @ 10.03%||Est @ 7.84%||Est @ 6.31%||Est @ 5.24%|
|Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 8.11%||$390.74||$512.30||$710.24||$814.77||$886.54||$927.97||$944.46||$942.11||$926.40||$901.76|
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF)= $7.96b
"Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St
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 8.1%.
Terminal Value (TV) = FCF2029 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$2.0b × (1 + 2.7%) ÷ (8.1% – 2.7%) = US$38b
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV) = TV / (1 + r)10 = $US$38b ÷ ( 1 + 8.1%)10 = $17.21b
The total value, or equity value, is then the sum of the present value of the future cash flows, which in this case is $25.17b. The last step is to then divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. This results in an intrinsic value estimate of $314.62. Compared to the current share price of $305.7, the company appears about fair value at a 2.8% 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.
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 Align Technology 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 8.1%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.903. 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 Align Technology, I've compiled three relevant aspects you should further examine:
- Financial Health: Does ALGN 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 ALGN'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 ALGN? 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.
We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.
If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.