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Is Auto Trader Group plc (LON:AUTO) Worth UK£5.8 Based On Its Intrinsic Value?

Simply Wall St

Today we'll do a simple run through of a valuation method used to estimate the attractiveness of Auto Trader Group plc (LON:AUTO) as an investment opportunity by estimating the company's future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. This is done using 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. 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.

Check out our latest analysis for Auto Trader Group

The calculation

We are going to use a two-stage DCF model, which, as the name states, takes into account two stages of growth. The first stage is generally a higher growth period which levels off heading towards the terminal value, captured in the second 'steady growth' period. 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 need to discount the sum of these future cash flows to arrive at a present value estimate:

10-year free cash flow (FCF) forecast

2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029
Levered FCF (£, Millions) UK£208.3m UK£238.7m UK£256.7m UK£269.2m UK£278.7m UK£286.1m UK£291.9m UK£296.5m UK£300.2m UK£303.3m
Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x9 Analyst x9 Analyst x8 Est @ 4.85% Est @ 3.55% Est @ 2.65% Est @ 2.01% Est @ 1.57% Est @ 1.26% Est @ 1.04%
Present Value (£, Millions) Discounted @ 7.0% UK£195 UK£209 UK£210 UK£206 UK£199 UK£191 UK£182 UK£173 UK£164 UK£155

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = UK£1.9b

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 10-year government bond rate of 0.5%. We discount the terminal cash flows to today's value at a cost of equity of 7.0%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2029 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = UK£303m× (1 + 0.5%) ÷ 7.0%– 0.5%) = UK£4.7b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= UK£4.7b÷ ( 1 + 7.0%)10= UK£2.4b

The total value, or equity value, is then the sum of the present value of the future cash flows, which in this case is UK£4.3b. The last step is to then divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Compared to the current share price of UK£5.8, the company appears slightly overvalued at the time of writing. 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.

LSE:AUTO Intrinsic value, February 5th 2020

The assumptions

The calculation above is very dependent on two assumptions. The first is the discount rate and the other is the 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 Auto Trader Group 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 7.0%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.060. 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. What is the reason for the share price to differ from the intrinsic value? For Auto Trader Group, There are three further aspects you should further research:

  1. Financial Health: Does AUTO 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.
  2. Future Earnings: How does AUTO'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 High Quality Alternatives: Are there other high quality stocks you could be holding instead of AUTO? 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 GB 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.