Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Alternative to Discounted Cash Flow Method

What do you use if you don't want to or can't use the discounted cash flow (DCF) method of valuing a stock?  

There are other methods for valuing a stock (not valuing the company).  The most popular alternative uses various multiples to compare the price of one stock to a comparable stock.

The price earnings ratio (P/E) is the most popular multiple for these comparisons.

You can use the P/E formula to find the price based on comparable stocks.

For example, three stocks in a particular industry had an average P/E of say 18.5.  If another stock ABC in the same industry had earnings of $2.50 per share, you could calculate a stock price of $46.25 per share (= 2.5 x 18.5).  This is just an approximation, but it should put stock ABC on a comparable basis with the other three stocks in the same industry.

This strategy has several flaws.

1.  The P/E is not always the most reliable of value gauges.
2.  The process depends on the three comparables being priced correctly and there is no guarantee of that.
3.   Its biggest flaw is that the process tells you nothing of the future value of the company or the stock.

If you use this method, and many investors do, you will need to watch the stock more closely and continually measure it against comparables.  However, it does not require you to estimate anything or consider multiple variables, which is why it is so popular.

This method is best used for a quick decision on whether the stock is under-priced or over-priced.
Although you can arrive at a stock price based on the P/E formula, it is not nearly as accurate as the DCF method.

You can also use other key ratios in valuation.

These include the followings:
1.  Price/Book - Value market places on book value.
2.  Price/Sales - Value market places on sales.
3.  Price/Cash Flow - Value market places on cash flow.
4.  Dividend Yield - Shareholder yield from dividends.

So, which method should you use - DCF or multiples?

In the end, you will have to decide which method is for you.

There is no rule against using both.

Whether you calculate your own DCFs or use the estimates from others, reputable websites or analysts estimates, make sure you have the best guess available on the variables the formula needs.

Either way, make a conscious decision to buy a stock based on the valuation method of your choice and not a "feeling" for the stock.

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