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Value Investing: Intrinsic Value and Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) Model

How to calculate the real value of an asset.

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Value investing is an investment strategy that focuses on buying securities that are undervalued by the market. The goal of value investing is to find companies or assets that are trading at a price that is lower than their intrinsic value and hold them until the market recognizes their true value, leading to an increase in price.

Value investors typically use a variety of techniques to assess the intrinsic value of a security, including analyzing financial statements, cash flows, earnings, and the overall state of the industry or market. Value investing is often contrasted with growth investing, where the focus is on investing in companies that are expected to grow at an above-average rate.

Value investing is a popular approach among many investors, including Warren Buffett, and has a long history of generating strong returns over the long term.

Intrinsic Value

Intrinsic value refers to the estimated value of an investment based on an analysis of its inherent characteristics, such as its assets, earnings, and growth potential. This value is often compared to the market price of the investment to determine whether it is undervalued or overvalued.

The concept of intrinsic value is central to value investing, a strategy that seeks to buy investments that are trading below their true worth and hold them until they reach their fair value. The goal of value investing is to generate long-term returns by investing in undervalued assets that are expected to appreciate over time.

The formula takes into account various factors, such as the company’s earnings, growth prospects, and future dividends. Some common intrinsic value formulas include:

Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) Model: This formula estimates the present value of future cash flows, considering the time value of money, to arrive at an intrinsic value.

Price to Earnings (P/E) Ratio: This formula calculates the intrinsic value of a stock by dividing its current market price by its earnings per share (EPS).

Dividend Discount Model (DDM): This formula calculates the intrinsic value of a stock by considering the present value of future dividends, taking into account the company’s dividend growth rate and discount rate.

Price to Book (P/B) Ratio: The P/B ratio compares a company’s current stock price to its book value. A lower P/B ratio could indicate the stock is undervalued compared to its book value, and a higher P/B ratio could indicate overvaluation.

It’s important to note that the intrinsic value formula is just one method to determine the value of an asset and is subject to interpretation. Different investors may arrive at different intrinsic values based on different inputs and assumptions.

Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) Model

The Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) Model is a financial valuation method used to estimate the intrinsic value of a company by forecasting its future cash flows and discounting them back to present value using a discount rate. The model assumes that the value of a company is the present value of its future expected cash flows. The DCF model is widely used in the investment community for valuing stocks, bonds, real estate, and other assets.

The inputs for a DCF model are the expected future cash flows, the discount rate, and the terminal value, which is the value of the company beyond the forecast period. The output of the model is the intrinsic value of the company, which can be compared to its current market price to determine if it is overvalued or undervalued.

The discounted cash flow (DCF) calculation of a stock with terminal value involves estimating future cash flows generated by the stock and then discounting them back to their present value using a discount rate.

The formula for calculating the intrinsic value of a stock using the DCF method is as follows:

Intrinsic Value = (FCF1 / (1 + r)^1) + (FCF2 / (1 + r)^2) + … + (FCFn / (1 + r)^n) + (TV / (1 + r)^n)


  • FCF1, FCF2, FCFn = Free Cash Flow expected at year n
  • n = the number of years over which cash flows are estimated
  • r = the discount rate, which is the rate used to discount future cash flows back to present value (see WACC formula below)
  • TV = terminal value – the estimated value of the stock beyond the forecast period.

Here’s an example of a DCF calculation with terminal value for a hypothetical stock:

  • Assume that the stock is expected to generate $10 million in cash flows in the next year and $11 million in each of the next four years.
  • Assume a discount rate of 10% from WACC formula below.
  • Assume that the terminal value of the stock is $100 million, estimated using a constant growth rate of 5% beyond year 5.

Intrinsic Value = ($10 million / (1 + 10%)^1) + ($11 million / (1 + 10%)^2) + ($11 million / (1 + 10%)^3) + ($11 million / (1 + 10%)^4) + ($11 million / (1 + 10%)^5) + ($100 million / (1 + 10%)^5)

Intrinsic Value = $47.5 million

If the company’s stock has 1 million shares in circulation and its current price per share is $30, it can be interpreted as the stock being undervalued and indicating a buying opportunity as its intrinsic value per share is estimated to be $47.5. On the other hand, if the stock is traded at $50 per share, it may be seen as overvalued and signaling a selling signal.

The above example assumes that the stock’s cash flows will grow at a constant rate and that the terminal value will grow at a constant rate. However, in reality, cash flows and terminal value may change over time and may need to be adjusted based on the company’s performance and other factors.

Free Cash Flow

The cash flow used in a DCF calculation is the free cash flow (FCF) to the firm. It represents the cash that is generated by a company’s operations, after subtracting all capital expenditures. The formula for FCF is:

FCF = Net Income + Depreciation & Amortization – Capital Expenditures – Changes in Working Capital.

Net income is a financial metric that represents the total amount of money that a company has earned after accounting for all expenses and taxes. It is calculated as the difference between a company’s total revenue and total expenses. Net income is often used as a measure of a company’s profitability and is also a key factor in the calculation of several other financial metrics, such as Earnings per Share (EPS) and Price-to-Earnings (P/E) ratio.

Depreciation and amortization are two non-cash expenses used in accounting to reduce the value of long-term assets, such as property, plant, and equipment (PPE) and intangible assets, respectively. Depreciation is the allocation of the cost of a tangible asset over its useful life. Amortization is the gradual recognition of an intangible asset’s cost as an expense over its useful life. Both methods aim to match the costs of these assets to the revenue they generate.

Capital expenditures (CAPEX) refer to the funds a company uses to purchase, upgrade or maintain its fixed assets such as property, plant, and equipment (PP&E). It includes expenditures on items like buildings, machinery, and equipment used in the production process and the infrastructure that supports it. CAPEX is recorded as an expense on a company’s balance sheet and is used to calculate its free cash flow, which is a key metric for investors in evaluating a company’s financial health and its ability to generate future cash flows.

Changes in working capital refers to the net changes in a company’s current assets and current liabilities that are used for financing its day-to-day operations. These changes are important to consider when estimating a company’s future cash flows because they can affect a company’s ability to generate positive cash flows and pay debts. Positive changes in working capital are usually a good sign and indicate that a company is able to manage its finances effectively. Negative changes, on the other hand, can be a sign of potential financial trouble and may indicate that a company is having difficulty financing its operations.

Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC)

The Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC) is a commonly used discount rate in DCF calculations. It represents the average cost of a company’s borrowed and equity capital, with each component weighted by its respective proportion of the company’s financing mix.

The formula for WACC is:

WACC = (E/V) * Re + (D/V) * Rd * (1 – Tc)


  • E = market value of the company’s equity
  • V = E + D, where D is the market value of the company’s debt
  • Re = cost of equity, often estimated using the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM)
  • Rd = cost of debt, often estimated as the yield on the company’s outstanding bonds
  • Tc = effective corporate tax rate.

The formula for the “Re” (Required rate of return) in finance is: Re = Rf + β * (Rm – Rf), where Rf is the risk-free rate, β is the beta, which measures the systematic risk of an asset relative to the overall market, Rm is the expected return of the market.

WACC (Weighted Average Cost of Capital) calculation sample:

Identify the company’s current debt and equity capital structure: Assume the company has $10 million in debt and $30 million in equity.

  • Determine the cost of debt: The cost of debt is the interest rate the company pays on its debt. Assume the company’s interest rate is 6%.
  • Determine the cost of equity: The cost of equity can be estimated using the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) or by using a dividend discount model. Assume the cost of equity is 10%.
  • Calculate the company’s debt to equity ratio: The debt to equity ratio is calculated by dividing the company’s debt ($10 million) by its equity ($30 million), which results in 0.33.
  • Calculate the weight of debt and equity: The weight of debt is calculated by dividing the debt amount by the sum of debt and equity, which is $10 million / ($10 million + $30 million) = 0.25. The weight of equity is calculated by subtracting the weight of debt from 1, which is 1 – 0.25 = 0.75.
  • Calculate WACC: WACC is calculated by multiplying the weight of debt by the cost of debt, plus the weight of equity by the cost of equity, which results in 0.25 * 6% + 0.75 * 10% = 9%.

Therefore, the discounted rate used for DCF calculation will be 9%. This is just a simplified example, actual calculation might be more complex and take into consideration various other factors.

Beta (β)

Beta is a measure of a stock’s volatility in relation to the overall market. A beta of 1 means a stock’s price is expected to move with the market, while a beta less than 1 means it is expected to be less volatile than the market, and a beta greater than 1 means it is expected to be more volatile. Beta is used in various financial models, including the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM), to calculate the expected return of an investment.

Beta is calculated by dividing the stock’s covariance with the market by the market’s variance over a specified period of time. The formula for beta is:

Beta = Covariance(Stock, Market) / Variance(Market)

Where Covariance is a statistical measure of the relationship between two variables, and Variance is the measure of the spread of a set of data from its mean.

Beta can be estimated using historical stock prices and market data or through regression analysis. It is important to note that beta is a historical estimate and may not accurately predict future behavior.

Risk-Free Rate (Rf)

The risk-free rate (Rf) represents the return on investment with zero risk. It is typically calculated using government bonds, such as U.S. Treasury bonds, which are considered to have low default risk. The yield on these bonds is used as a benchmark for the risk-free rate.

For example, if the yield on a 10-year U.S. Treasury bond is 2%, then the risk-free rate can be considered to be 2%. In finance, the risk-free rate is used as a benchmark to measure the return of investments with greater risk.

It is important to note that the risk-free rate is a theoretical concept and may not reflect the actual risk of an investment. The yield on government bonds may change over time, and there is always a small amount of default risk associated with these investments.

Expected Return of the Market (Rm)

The expected return of market (Rm) is the average expected return for the overall market or a benchmark such as the S&P 500. The calculation is based on the expected future cash flows of the market, which can be estimated using various methods such as the capital asset pricing model (CAPM), historical average returns, or expert opinions. Samples of Rm calculation can include:

Using historical average market returns: Here, the average return of the market over a certain time period is used as the expected return. For example, if the S&P 500 has returned 8% on average over the past 10 years, that can be used as the Rm.

Using CAPM: The expected return can be estimated using the capital asset pricing model, which assumes that the expected return is equal to the risk-free rate plus a risk premium (beta times the market risk premium).

Expert opinions: In some cases, market analysts and experts may provide their own estimates of the expected return of the market, which can be used as an estimate of Rm.

It’s worth noting that the expected return of the market is an estimate and is subject to change based on various factors such as market conditions, economic conditions, and other events.

Terminal Value

The terminal value in a DCF (Discounted Cash Flow) calculation is the estimated future value of a company’s cash flows beyond the projection period. It can be calculated using the perpetuity growth formula:

Terminal Value = (FCFn * (1 + g)) / (WACC – g)


  • FCFn = the projected free cash flow in the last year of the projection period
  • g = the estimated long-term growth rate of the company
  • WACC = the weighted average cost of capital, which is the required rate of return for the company’s investments

Note: the g should be a reasonable estimate that is lower than the WACC.


The DCF Model is a widely used method for estimating the intrinsic value of a stock. It involves forecasting future cash flows and then discounting them to present value using a discount rate. The discount rate, usually the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC), represents the opportunity cost of investing in the stock and takes into account the cost of equity (Re) and cost of debt (Rd).

The calculated present value of future cash flows gives the intrinsic value, which can then be compared to the current market price to make a buy or sell decision. The DCF Model has its limitations and requires accurate forecasting, which can be challenging. It’s important to consider other factors, such as macroeconomic conditions, industry trends, and company-specific risk, in addition to the DCF Model when making investment decisions.

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