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Is Ascential plc (LON:ASCL) Trading At A 32% Discount?

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·5-min read
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How far off is Ascential plc (LON:ASCL) 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 expected future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. We will use the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model on this occasion. There's really not all that much to it, even though it might appear quite complex.

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. For those who are keen learners of equity analysis, the Simply Wall St analysis model here may be something of interest to you.

See our latest analysis for Ascential

Is Ascential 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 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 need to discount the sum of these future cash flows to arrive at a present value estimate:

10-year free cash flow (FCF) estimate

2022

2023

2024

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

2030

2031

Levered FCF (£, Millions)

UK£73.5m

UK£92.8m

UK£106.9m

UK£118.6m

UK£128.0m

UK£135.5m

UK£141.4m

UK£146.1m

UK£149.9m

UK£153.0m

Growth Rate Estimate Source

Analyst x5

Analyst x5

Est @ 15.23%

Est @ 10.94%

Est @ 7.93%

Est @ 5.83%

Est @ 4.36%

Est @ 3.33%

Est @ 2.6%

Est @ 2.1%

Present Value (£, Millions) Discounted @ 5.9%

UK£69.4

UK£82.7

UK£90.0

UK£94.3

UK£96.1

UK£96.0

UK£94.6

UK£92.3

UK£89.4

UK£86.2

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = UK£890m

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 5.9%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2031 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = UK£153m× (1 + 0.9%) ÷ (5.9%– 0.9%) = UK£3.1b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= UK£3.1b÷ ( 1 + 5.9%)10= UK£1.7b

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£2.6b. To get the intrinsic value per share, we divide this by the total number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of UK£4.1, the company appears quite undervalued at a 32% discount to where the stock price trades currently. Valuations are imprecise instruments though, rather like a telescope - move a few degrees and end up in a different galaxy. Do keep this in mind.

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. You don't have to agree with these inputs, I recommend redoing the calculations yourself and playing with them. 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 Ascential 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 5.9%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.940. 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, the DCF calculation is only one of many factors that you need to assess for a company. It's not possible to obtain a foolproof valuation with a DCF model. Preferably you'd apply different cases and assumptions and see how they would impact the company's valuation. 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 Ascential, we've compiled three important items you should further research:

  1. Risks: Case in point, we've spotted 1 warning sign for Ascential you should be aware of.

  2. Future Earnings: How does ASCL'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 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. 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.

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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