Business and Company Valuation
“What is a business worth?” Although it seems simple, determining the value of any business requires experience, sound judgment from market and industry experience and at least some understanding of financial analysis.
Underpining everything that is outlined below however (much of which I sourced from wstselfstudy.com), I am certainly a part of the Warren Buffet school of thought that outlines that it is important to be able to understand a business before you decide it is the business for you.
What a company is worth is commonly different between buyers and depends on several factors including:
- Assumptions regarding the growth and profitability prospects of the business,
- An Assessment of future market conditions and demand,
- Assumptions based on the competition in the market,
- Varying appetites for assuming risk (the discount rate on expected future cash flows)
- What unique synergies may be brought to the business after the purchase.
The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the basic valuation techniques used by financial analysts to answer the question in the context of a merger or acquisition.
Basic Valuation Methodologies
There are several basic analytical tools that are commonly used by financial analysts to determine the value of a company or business. These methods are based on financial theory and market reality but it must be remembered that these tools are only indicators and should not be viewed as a final definitive statement of value, but rather, as a starting point to estimate value.
The Wall Street Self Study course notes that different people will have different ideas on value of an entity depending on factors such as:
- Public status of the seller and buyer
- Nature of potential buyers (strategic vs. financial)
- Nature of the deal (“beauty contest” or privately negotiated)
- Market conditions (bull or bear market, industry specific issues)
- Tax position of buyer and seller
Each methodology is fairly simple in theory but can become extremely complex. They include:
“DCF” – Discounted Cash Flow Analysis
The free cash flows to a company are discounted over projection period. This method is especially relevant where there aren’t any comparable companies allowing the use of the multiples methods below or for smaller companies.
In a DCF analysis, free cash flows are modeled over a projection horizon and then discounted to reflect thier present value in today’s dollars (i.e less). In addition to these cash flows, a value must be determined for the cash flows generated beyond the projection horizon, commonly called the “terminal value”. Thus, DCF accounts for time value of money and relative risk of investment, but is highly sensitive to the discount rate.
The DCF approach is among the most scientific and theoretically precise valuation methodologies because it relates specifically to the profitability and growth of the business being valued. Due to its dependency on the discount rate and a number of long term future assumptions, it must be remembered that it needs to be used in association with other methods.
Analysis of Selected Publicly Trading Companies or Selected Acquisitions using Multiples
A part of most valuation methodologies is the idea of a ‘multiple’. A multiple is simply a ratio of value to a financial statement statistic such as Revenue, EBITDA, EBIT and the Price / Earnings (PE) ratio (Check here for Company Valuation Definitions of these ratios). Each of these multiples are common in different industries for different reasons. In general, the higher the multiple, the higher the value given to the future earnings or cash flow of a company; in other words, the higher the multiple, the more a buyer will pay for the company.
An an examples, If a company’s LTM EBITDA was $50 million and similar companies were trading at a 7X EBITDA multiple, the company would have an implied value of $50 million X 7 or $350 million based on an LTM or trailing basis.
The following is a brief overviewe of the two common methods that are used in selecting appropriately similar company multiples:
Trading Comparables (“Trading Comps”) Analysis
Trading Comps is the term for multiples analysis of publicly traded companies and then making comparisons with other similar or comparable companies.
This method is most relevant for valuing public companies with publicly traded competitiors. A major disadvantage of this valuation method is that often, it is difficult to determine the appropraite competitor and number of variables can get in the way.
Deal Comparables (Deal Comps”) Analysis
Deal Comps or analysis of selected acquisitions are very similar to trading comps except that deal comps compare actual completed transactions instead of publicly traded companies as the domain of comparable companies.
This approach is very relevant in the absence of public traded competitors but information can be very scarce and unreliable depending on company and the particular industry.
The following are other methods that I will not go deeper into in this article:
Asset Valuation – Involves analysis of tangible asset
Break up Analysis – Involves sum of parts analysis based on different business lines
LBO Valuation – Involves financial engineering based on leverage or use of debt