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In this article we are going to estimate the intrinsic value of Santos Limited (ASX:STO) by projecting its future cash flows and then 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 would caution that there are many ways of valuing a company and, like the DCF, each technique has advantages and disadvantages in certain scenarios. 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.
Is Santos 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. 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, 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 ($, Millions)
Growth Rate Estimate Source
Est @ 2.75%
Est @ 2.48%
Est @ 2.3%
Est @ 2.17%
Est @ 2.07%
Est @ 2.01%
Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 8.9%
("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$8.0b
We now need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all the future cash flows after this ten year period. The Gordon Growth formula is used to calculate Terminal Value at a future annual growth rate equal to the 5-year average of the 10-year government bond yield of 1.9%. We discount the terminal cash flows to today's value at a cost of equity of 8.9%.
Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2031 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$1.7b× (1 + 1.9%) ÷ (8.9%– 1.9%) = US$25b
Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$25b÷ ( 1 + 8.9%)10= US$11b
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$19b. In the final step we divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of AU$6.6, the company appears quite undervalued at a 48% 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.
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. 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 Santos 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 8.9%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.610. 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, the DCF calculation is only one of many factors that you need to assess for a company. The DCF model is not a perfect stock valuation tool. Preferably you'd apply different cases and assumptions and see how they would impact the company's valuation. 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. Can we work out why the company is trading at a discount to intrinsic value? For Santos, we've compiled three important factors you should further research:
Financial Health: Does STO 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 STO'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. Simply Wall St updates its DCF calculation for every Australian 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.