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Is There An Opportunity With Element Solutions Inc's (NYSE:ESI) 19% Undervaluation?

Simply Wall St

Does the May share price for Element Solutions Inc (NYSE:ESI) reflect what it's really worth? Today, we will estimate the stock's intrinsic value by projecting its future cash flows and then discounting them to today's value. This is 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.

See our latest analysis for Element Solutions

Is Element Solutions fairly valued?

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) forecast

2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029
Levered FCF ($, Millions) US$180.9m US$200.0m US$206.3m US$211.9m US$217.1m US$221.9m US$226.5m US$231.0m US$235.4m US$239.7m
Growth Rate Estimate Source Est @ 3.75% Analyst x1 Est @ 3.15% Est @ 2.72% Est @ 2.43% Est @ 2.22% Est @ 2.08% Est @ 1.98% Est @ 1.91% Est @ 1.86%
Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 8.5% US$167 US$170 US$161 US$153 US$144 US$136 US$128 US$120 US$113 US$106

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$1.4b

The second stage is also known as Terminal Value, this is the business's cash flow after 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 (1.7%) 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 8.5%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2029 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$240m× (1 + 1.7%) ÷ 8.5%– 1.7%) = US$3.6b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$3.6b÷ ( 1 + 8.5%)10= US$1.6b

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 US$3.0b. In the final step we divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Compared to the current share price of US$9.7, the company appears about fair value at a 19% discount to where the stock price trades currently. Valuations are imprecise instruments though, rather like a telescope - move a few degrees and end up in a different galaxy. Do keep this in mind.

NYSE:ESI Intrinsic value May 16th 2020

Important assumptions

Now 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 Element Solutions 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 8.5%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.246. 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.

Next Steps:

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 Element Solutions, There are three essential factors you should further research:

  1. Risks: For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for Element Solutions (1 makes us a bit uncomfortable!) that you should be aware of before investing here.
  2. Management:Have insiders been ramping up their shares to take advantage of the market's sentiment for ESI's future outlook? Check out our management and board analysis with insights on CEO compensation and governance factors.
  3. 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. Simply Wall St updates its DCF calculation for every US stock every day, so if you want to find the intrinsic value of any other stock just search here.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.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.

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. Thank you for reading.