When a company’s financials are scrutinized, metrics used to evaluate the same are important. According to Wall Street, a company’s cash flow is the best indicator for a company’s performance. As such, DCF or discounted cash flow analysis is used to determine a company’s worth by estimating future cash flows.
Projected cash flows (operating profit + depreciation + amortization of goodwill - capital expenses - cash taxes - alteration in working capital) are discounted to current value using company’s weighted average costs. In short, DCF is an effective and unparalleled tool for determining share value, which is important for investors.
Also, a few financial scandals only hiked the importance of DCF. With more concerns about reliability of earnings and calculation of P/E or cash flow determination, coming up with a DCF model calls for more efforts than merely dividing share price by income or sales. However, taking this effort ensures investors get a good idea of the key factors like share value, projection of future income or profits, growth ratio, etc. Besides, DCF can’t be manipulated through aggressive accounting practices easily.
While DCF is a very useful tool, it isn’t without shortcomings. It is a mechanical valuation tool that works akin to garbage in, garbage out saying. So, any minor change or change in assumptions could lead to major differences. But, investors should always crosscheck evaluations and allow considerable margin for such changes or errors, when taking decisions. Major investment decisions should not be taken purely relying on DCF calculations alone. What if a client backs off from a contract, or what if interest rates hike unexpectedly or even a competitor cropping up with crushing prices and the firm losing most business? Remember, when expectations change, calculations or derivations based on the assumptions will change along with it! Do you know even reputed investor Warren Buffet and other financial experts and portfolio managers rely on DCF?
Discounting cash flow is tricky and it is important to remember that assuming or predicting future estimates could be meaningful or meaningless depending on the estimates taken and how reasonable they are. Besides, numbers aren’t static and keep changing with changing trends. As for investors, evaluating stock pricing is very important and DCF is a handy aid for calculating the same, says Matthew Roddan of Project Ninety Nine. Do you know stock market speculations are based on DCF? Whether it is acquiring a business, or a property, or investing on stock, DCF helps with speculating approximately.