Is Casella Waste Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CWST) Expensive For A Reason? A Look At Its Intrinsic Value

·5 min read

Does the July share price for Casella Waste Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CWST) reflect what it's really worth? Today, we will estimate the stock's intrinsic value by taking the expected future cash flows and discounting them to today's value. Our analysis will employ the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. Don't get put off by the jargon, the math behind it is actually quite straightforward.

Companies can be valued in a lot of ways, so we would point out that a DCF is not perfect for every situation. If you still have some burning questions about this type of valuation, take a look at the Simply Wall St analysis model.

See our latest analysis for Casella Waste Systems

Is Casella Waste Systems fairly valued?

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, so we need to discount the sum of these future cash flows to arrive at a present value estimate:

10-year free cash flow (FCF) estimate

2022

2023

2024

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

2030

2031

Levered FCF ($, Millions)

US$84.9m

US$95.6m

US$116.0m

US$126.1m

US$133.6m

US$140.0m

US$145.5m

US$150.4m

US$154.9m

US$159.0m

Growth Rate Estimate Source

Analyst x5

Analyst x3

Analyst x1

Analyst x1

Est @ 5.97%

Est @ 4.78%

Est @ 3.94%

Est @ 3.36%

Est @ 2.95%

Est @ 2.66%

Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 6.8%

US$79.5

US$83.8

US$95.2

US$96.9

US$96.2

US$94.4

US$91.8

US$88.9

US$85.7

US$82.3

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$894m

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. 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 2.0%. We discount the terminal cash flows to today's value at a cost of equity of 6.8%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2031 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$159m× (1 + 2.0%) ÷ (6.8%– 2.0%) = US$3.4b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$3.4b÷ ( 1 + 6.8%)10= US$1.7b

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$2.6b. 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$65.3, the company appears slightly overvalued at the time of writing. The assumptions in any calculation have a big impact on the valuation, so it is better to view this as a rough estimate, not precise down to the last cent.

dcf
dcf

Important assumptions

We would point out that the most important inputs to a discounted cash flow are the discount rate and of course the actual cash flows. If you don't agree with these result, have a go at the calculation yourself and play with the 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 Casella Waste Systems 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 6.8%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.019. 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.

Looking Ahead:

Valuation is only one side of the coin in terms of building your investment thesis, and it shouldn't be the only metric you look at when researching a company. DCF models are not the be-all and end-all of investment valuation. Preferably you'd apply different cases and assumptions and see how they would impact the company's valuation. If a company grows at a different rate, or if its cost of equity or risk free rate changes sharply, the output can look very different. Can we work out why the company is trading at a premium to intrinsic value? For Casella Waste Systems, we've compiled three fundamental aspects you should consider:

  1. Risks: You should be aware of the 2 warning signs for Casella Waste Systems we've uncovered before considering an investment in the company.

  2. Future Earnings: How does CWST'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.

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