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Are Investors Undervaluing WPP plc (LON:WPP) By 33%?

·5-min read

How far off is WPP plc (LON:WPP) from its intrinsic value? Using the most recent financial data, we'll take a look at whether the stock is fairly priced by taking the forecast future cash flows of the company and discounting them back to today's value. This will be done using 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 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. For those who are keen learners of equity analysis, the Simply Wall St analysis model here may be something of interest to you.

Check out our latest analysis for WPP

What's the estimated valuation?

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 start off with, we need to estimate 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) forecast

2021

2022

2023

2024

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

2030

Levered FCF (£, Millions)

UK£537.8m

UK£958.6m

UK£1.13b

UK£1.19b

UK£1.34b

UK£1.45b

UK£1.53b

UK£1.59b

UK£1.64b

UK£1.68b

Growth Rate Estimate Source

Analyst x11

Analyst x10

Analyst x9

Analyst x3

Analyst x3

Est @ 7.66%

Est @ 5.64%

Est @ 4.22%

Est @ 3.23%

Est @ 2.54%

Present Value (£, Millions) Discounted @ 8.7%

UK£495

UK£811

UK£877

UK£855

UK£885

UK£877

UK£852

UK£817

UK£776

UK£732

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = UK£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 0.9%. We discount the terminal cash flows to today's value at a cost of equity of 8.7%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2030 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = UK£1.7b× (1 + 0.9%) ÷ (8.7%– 0.9%) = UK£22b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= UK£22b÷ ( 1 + 8.7%)10= UK£9.5b

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 UK£17b. To get the intrinsic value per share, we divide this by the total number of shares outstanding. Compared to the current share price of UK£9.7, the company appears quite undervalued at a 33% discount to where the stock price trades currently. Remember though, that this is just an approximate valuation, and like any complex formula - garbage in, garbage out.

dcf
dcf

The assumptions

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. 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 WPP 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 8.7%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.463. 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.

Moving On:

Whilst important, the DCF calculation ideally won't be the sole piece of analysis you scrutinize for a company. It's not possible to obtain a foolproof valuation with a DCF model. 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. Can we work out why the company is trading at a discount to intrinsic value? For WPP, we've compiled three further aspects you should explore:

  1. Risks: For example, we've discovered 2 warning signs for WPP (1 is concerning!) 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 WPP's future outlook? Check out our management and board analysis with insights on CEO compensation and governance factors.

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

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. 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.

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

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