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Is There An Opportunity With Strategic Education, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:STRA) 40% Undervaluation?

How far off is Strategic Education, Inc. (NASDAQ:STRA) from its intrinsic value? Using the most recent financial data, we'll take a look at whether the stock is fairly priced by estimating the company's future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. We will take advantage of the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model for this purpose. Believe it or not, it's not too difficult to follow, as you'll see from our example!

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.

View our latest analysis for Strategic Education

Is Strategic Education Fairly Valued?

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. To begin with, we have to get estimates of the next ten years of cash flows. 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.

Generally we assume that a dollar today is more valuable than a dollar in the future, and so the sum of these future cash flows is then discounted to today's value:

10-year free cash flow (FCF) forecast

2023

2024

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

2030

2031

2032

Levered FCF ($, Millions)

US$106.5m

US$104.1m

US$103.1m

US$103.0m

US$103.5m

US$104.5m

US$105.8m

US$107.3m

US$109.1m

US$110.9m

Growth Rate Estimate Source

Analyst x1

Est @ -2.22%

Est @ -0.98%

Est @ -0.1%

Est @ 0.51%

Est @ 0.94%

Est @ 1.24%

Est @ 1.45%

Est @ 1.6%

Est @ 1.7%

Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 5.6%

US$101

US$93.4

US$87.6

US$82.9

US$78.9

US$75.4

US$72.3

US$69.4

US$66.8

US$64.3

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$791m

After calculating the present value of future cash flows in the initial 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 5-year average of the 10-year government bond yield (1.9%) 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 5.6%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2032 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$111m× (1 + 1.9%) ÷ (5.6%– 1.9%) = US$3.1b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$3.1b÷ ( 1 + 5.6%)10= US$1.8b

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$2.6b. The last step is to then divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Compared to the current share price of US$64.1, the company appears quite undervalued at a 40% discount to where the stock price trades currently. The assumptions in any calculation have a big impact on the valuation, so it is better to view this as a rough estimate, not precise down to the last cent.

dcf
dcf

Important Assumptions

Now the most important inputs to a discounted cash flow are the discount rate, and of course, the actual cash flows. Part of investing is coming up with your own evaluation of a company's future performance, so try the calculation yourself and check your own 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 Strategic Education 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 5.6%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.862. 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.

Looking Ahead:

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. 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 instance, if the terminal value growth rate is adjusted slightly, it can dramatically alter the overall result. What is the reason for the share price sitting below the intrinsic value? For Strategic Education, there are three pertinent items you should further research:

  1. Risks: You should be aware of the 1 warning sign for Strategic Education we've uncovered before considering an investment in the company.

  2. Future Earnings: How does STRA'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.

  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 American stock every day, so if you want to find the intrinsic value of any other stock just search here.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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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