In this article I am going to calculate the intrinsic value of Forward Air Corporation (NASDAQ:FWRD) by taking the expected future cash flows and discounting them to today’s value. This is done using the discounted cash flows (DCF) model. Don’t get put off by the jargon, the math behind it is actually quite straightforward. If you want to learn more about discounted cash flow, the basis for my calcs can be read in detail in the Simply Wall St analysis model. Please also note that this article was written in January 2019 so be sure check out the updated calculation by following the link below.

View our latest analysis for Forward Air

### What’s the value?

I use what is known as a 2-stage model, which simply means we have two different periods of varying growth rates for the company’s cash flows. Generally the first stage is higher growth, and the second stage is a more stable growth phase. To begin with we have to get estimates of the next five years of cash flows. For this I used the consensus of the analysts covering the stock, as you can see below. I then discount this to its value today and sum up the total to get the present value of these cash flows.

#### 5-year cash flow estimate

2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022 | 2023 | |

Levered FCF ($, Millions) | $99.06 | $113.41 | $127.32 | $142.94 | $160.47 |

Source | Analyst x2 | Analyst x2 | Est @ 12.26% | Est @ 12.26% | Est @ 12.26% |

Present Value Discounted @ 9.51% | $90.46 | $94.56 | $96.94 | $99.37 | $101.87 |

**Present Value of 5-year Cash Flow (PVCF)**= US$483m

We now need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all the future cash flows after the five years. The Gordon Growth formula is used to calculate Terminal Value at an annual growth rate equal to the 10-year government bond rate of 2.9%. We discount this to today’s value at a cost of equity of 9.5%.

**Terminal Value (TV)** = FCF_{2023} × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$160m × (1 + 2.9%) ÷ (9.5% – 2.9%) = US$2.5b

**Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)** = TV / (1 + r)^{5} = US$2.5b ÷ ( 1 + 9.5%)^{5} = US$1.6b

The total value is the sum of cash flows for the next five years and the discounted terminal value, which results in the Total Equity Value, which in this case is US$2.1b. The last step is to then divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. If the stock is an depositary receipt (represents a specified number of shares in a foreign corporation) then we use the equivalent number. **This results in an intrinsic value of $71.26**. Relative to the current share price of $56.75, the stock is about right, perhaps slightly undervalued at a 20% discount to what it is available for right now.

### Important assumptions

Now the most important inputs to a discounted cash flow are the discount rate, and of course, the actual cash flows. You don’t have to agree with my inputs, I recommend redoing the calculations yourself and playing with them. Because we are looking at Forward Air as potential shareholders, the cost of equity is used as the discount rate, rather than the cost of capital (or weighed average cost of capital, WACC) which accounts for debt. In this calculation I’ve used 9.5%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.931. This is derived from the Bottom-Up Beta method based on 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. What is the reason for the share price to differ from the intrinsic value? For FWRD, I’ve put together three important aspects you should look at:

**Financial Health**: Does FWRD 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 FWRD’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 FWRD? 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 for every stock on the NASDAQ every 6 hours. If you want to find the calculation for other stocks just search here.

*To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.*

*The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.*