Nasdaq-Listed Companies

Calculating The Fair Value Of Cogent Communications Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:CCOI)

Does the June share price for Cogent Communications Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:CCOI) reflect what it's really worth? Today, we will estimate the stock's intrinsic value by estimating the company's future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. One way to achieve this is by employing the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. Don't get put off by the jargon, the math behind it is actually quite straightforward.

Remember though, that there are many ways to estimate a company's value, and a DCF is just one method. Anyone interested in learning a bit more about intrinsic value should have a read of the Simply Wall St analysis model.

The calculation

We use what is known as a 2-stage model, which simply means we have two different periods of growth rates for the company's cash flows. Generally the first stage is higher growth, and the second stage is a lower growth phase. In the first stage we need to estimate the cash flows to the business over the next ten years. Where possible we use analyst estimates, but when these aren't available we extrapolate the previous free cash flow (FCF) from the last estimate or reported value. We assume companies with shrinking free cash flow will slow their rate of shrinkage, and that companies with growing free cash flow will see their growth rate slow, over this period. We do this to reflect that growth tends to slow more in the early years than it does in later years.

Generally we assume that a dollar today is more valuable than a dollar in the future, and so the sum of these future cash flows is then discounted to today's value:

10-year free cash flow (FCF) forecast

2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030
Levered FCF ($, Millions) US$114.4m US$122.1m US$114.2m US$129.5m US$141.5m US$148.1m US$153.8m US$158.9m US$163.5m US$167.8m
Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x9 Analyst x9 Analyst x3 Analyst x2 Analyst x2 Est @ 4.65% Est @ 3.85% Est @ 3.3% Est @ 2.9% Est @ 2.63%
Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 5.8% US$108 US$109 US$96.5 US$103 US$107 US$106 US$104 US$101 US$98.7 US$95.8

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$1.0b

After calculating the present value of future cash flows in the initial 10-year period, we need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all future cash flows beyond the first stage. For a number of reasons a very conservative growth rate is used that cannot exceed that of a country's GDP growth. In this case we have used the 5-year average of the 10-year government bond yield (2.0%) to estimate future growth. In the same way as with the 10-year 'growth' period, we discount future cash flows to today's value, using a cost of equity of 5.8%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2030 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$168m× (1 + 2.0%) ÷ (5.8%– 2.0%) = US$4.5b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$4.5b÷ ( 1 + 5.8%)10= US$2.6b

The total value is the sum of cash flows for the next ten years plus the discounted terminal value, which results in the Total Equity Value, which in this case is US$3.6b. To get the intrinsic value per share, we divide this by the total number of shares outstanding. Compared to the current share price of US$77.5, the company appears about fair value at a 1.3% discount to where the stock price trades currently. Valuations are imprecise instruments though, rather like a telescope - move a few degrees and end up in a different galaxy. Do keep this in mind.

dcfNasdaqGS:CCOI Discounted Cash Flow June 19th 2021

The assumptions

Now the most important inputs to a discounted cash flow are the discount rate, and of course, the actual cash flows. Part of investing is coming up with your own evaluation of a company's future performance, so try the calculation yourself and check your own assumptions. The DCF also does not consider the possible cyclicality of an industry, or a company's future capital requirements, so it does not give a full picture of a company's potential performance. Given that we are looking at Cogent Communications Holdings as potential shareholders, the cost of equity is used as the discount rate, rather than the cost of capital (or weighted average cost of capital, WACC) which accounts for debt. In this calculation we've used 5.8%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.800. Beta is a measure of a stock's volatility, compared to the market as a whole. We get our beta from the industry average beta of globally comparable companies, with an imposed limit between 0.8 and 2.0, which is a reasonable range for a stable business.

Moving On:

Although the valuation of a company is important, it ideally won't be the sole piece of analysis you scrutinize for a company. The DCF model is not a perfect stock valuation tool. Rather it should be seen as a guide to "what assumptions need to be true for this stock to be under/overvalued?" For example, changes in the company's cost of equity or the risk free rate can significantly impact the valuation. For Cogent Communications Holdings, there are three further aspects you should explore:

  1. Risks: We feel that you should assess the 5 warning signs for Cogent Communications Holdings (3 can't be ignored!) we've flagged before making an investment in the company.
  2. Future Earnings: How does CCOI's growth rate compare to its peers and the wider market? Dig deeper into the analyst consensus number for the upcoming years by interacting with our free analyst growth expectation chart.
  3. Other High Quality Alternatives: Do you like a good all-rounder? Explore our interactive list of high quality stocks to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!

PS. Simply Wall St updates its DCF calculation for every American stock every day, so if you want to find the intrinsic value of any other stock just search here.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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