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Calculating The Fair Value Of Waste Management, Inc. (NYSE:WM)

Key Insights

  • Waste Management's estimated fair value is US$139 based on 2 Stage Free Cash Flow to Equity

  • Waste Management's US$164 share price indicates it is trading at similar levels as its fair value estimate

  • Our fair value estimate is 19% lower than Waste Management's analyst price target of US$172

How far off is Waste Management, Inc. (NYSE:WM) from its intrinsic value? Using the most recent financial data, we'll take a look at whether the stock is fairly priced by taking the expected future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. One way to achieve this is by employing the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. There's really not all that much to it, even though it might appear quite complex.

We generally believe that a company's value is the present value of all of the cash it will generate in the future. However, a DCF is just one valuation metric among many, and it is not without flaws. Anyone interested in learning a bit more about intrinsic value should have a read of the Simply Wall St analysis model.

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See our latest analysis for Waste Management

The Method

We are going to use a two-stage DCF model, which, as the name states, takes into account two stages of growth. The first stage is generally a higher growth period which levels off heading towards the terminal value, captured in the second 'steady growth' period. To begin with, we have to get estimates of the next ten years of cash flows. 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

2023

2024

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

2030

2031

2032

Levered FCF ($, Millions)

US$1.56b

US$2.40b

US$2.86b

US$3.30b

US$3.55b

US$3.73b

US$3.89b

US$4.03b

US$4.16b

US$4.28b

Growth Rate Estimate Source

Analyst x11

Analyst x12

Analyst x5

Analyst x2

Analyst x2

Est @ 5.25%

Est @ 4.30%

Est @ 3.63%

Est @ 3.16%

Est @ 2.83%

Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 7.9%

US$1.4k

US$2.1k

US$2.3k

US$2.4k

US$2.4k

US$2.4k

US$2.3k

US$2.2k

US$2.1k

US$2.0k

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$22b

We now need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all the future cash flows after this ten year period. The Gordon Growth formula is used to calculate Terminal Value at a future annual growth rate equal to the 5-year average of the 10-year government bond yield of 2.1%. We discount the terminal cash flows to today's value at a cost of equity of 7.9%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2032 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$4.3b× (1 + 2.1%) ÷ (7.9%– 2.1%) = US$75b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$75b÷ ( 1 + 7.9%)10= US$35b

The total value, or equity value, is then the sum of the present value of the future cash flows, which in this case is US$57b. To get the intrinsic value per share, we divide this by the total number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of US$164, the company appears around fair value at the time of writing. Remember though, that this is just an approximate valuation, and like any complex formula - garbage in, garbage out.

dcf
dcf

Important 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 Waste Management 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 7.9%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.983. 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.

SWOT Analysis for Waste Management

Strength

  • Earnings growth over the past year exceeded its 5-year average.

  • Debt is well covered by earnings and cashflows.

  • Dividends are covered by earnings and cash flows.

Weakness

  • Earnings growth over the past year underperformed the Commercial Services industry.

  • Dividend is low compared to the top 25% of dividend payers in the Commercial Services market.

Opportunity

  • Annual earnings are forecast to grow for the next 3 years.

  • Good value based on P/E ratio compared to estimated Fair P/E ratio.

Threat

  • Annual earnings are forecast to grow slower than the American market.

Next Steps:

Whilst important, the DCF calculation is only one of many factors that you need to assess for a company. DCF models are not the be-all and end-all of investment valuation. Instead the best use for a DCF model is to test certain assumptions and theories to see if they would lead to the company being undervalued or overvalued. For example, changes in the company's cost of equity or the risk free rate can significantly impact the valuation. For Waste Management, we've compiled three pertinent aspects you should further research:

  1. Risks: We feel that you should assess the 2 warning signs for Waste Management we've flagged before making an investment in the company.

  2. Management:Have insiders been ramping up their shares to take advantage of the market's sentiment for WM's future outlook? Check out our management and board analysis with insights on CEO compensation and governance factors.

  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.

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

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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.

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