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Walk me through a Discounted Cash Flow (“DCF”) analysis…

In order to do a DCF analysis, first we need to project free cash flow for a period of time (say, five years).  Free cash flow equals EBIT less taxes plus D&A less capital expenditures less the change in working capital.  Note that this measure of free cash flow is unlevered or debt-free.  This is because it does not include interest and so is independent of debt and capital structure.

Next we need a way to predict the value of the company/assets for the years beyond the projection period (5 years).  This is known as the Terminal Value.  We can use one of two methods for calculating terminal value, either the Gordon Growth (also called Perpetuity Growth) method or the Terminal Multiple method.  To use the Gordon Growth method, we must choose an appropriate rate by which the company can grow forever.  This growth rate should be modest, for example, average long-term expected GDP growth or inflation.  To calculate terminal value we multiply the last year’s free cash flow (year 5) by 1 plus the chosen growth rate, and then divide by the discount rate less growth rate.

The second method, the Terminal Multiple method, is the one that is more often used in banking.  Here we take an operating metric for the last projected period (year 5) and multiply it by an appropriate valuation multiple.  This most common metric to use is EBITDA.  We typically select the appropriate EBITDA multiple by taking what we concluded for our comparable company analysis on a last twelve months (LTM) basis.

Now that we have our projections of free cash flows and terminal value, we need to “present value” these at the appropriate discount rate, also known as weighted average cost of capital (WACC).  For discussion of calculating the WACC, please read the next topic.   Finally, summing up the present value of the projected cash flows and the present value of the terminal value gives us the DCF value.  Note that because we used unlevered cash flows and WACC as our discount rate, the DCF value is a representation of Enterprise Value, not Equity Value.

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