How do you value a company?

“®”This question, or variations of it, should be answered by talking about 2 primary valuation methodologies:

a. Intrinsic value (discounted cash flow valuation)
b. Relative valuation (comparables/multiples valuation)

Intrinsic value (DCF)
This approach is the more academically respected approach. The DCF says that the value of a productive asset equals the present value of its cash flows. The answer should run along the line of “project free cash flows for 5-20 years, depending on the availability and reliability of information, and then calculate a terminal value. Discount both the free cash flow projections and terminal value by an appropriate cost of capital (weighted average cost of capital for unlevered DCF and cost of equity for levered DCF). In an unlevered DCF (the more common approach) this will yield the company’s enterprise value (aka firm and transaction value), from which we need to subtract net debt to arrive at equity value. Divide equity value by diluted shares outstanding to arrive at equity value per share.

Relative valuation (Multiples)
The second approach involves determining a comparable peer group – companies that are in the same industry with similar operational, growth, risk, and return on capital characteristics. Truly identical companies of course do not exist, but you should attempt to find as close to comparable companies as possible. Calculate appropriate industry multiples. Apply the median of these multiples on the relevant operating metric of the target company to arrive at a valuation.

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