Is Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) Expensive For A Reason? A Look At Its Intrinsic Value

Simply Wall St

Today we will run through one way of estimating the intrinsic value of Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO) by taking the foreast future cash flows of the company and discounting them back to today's value. This is done using the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. It may sound complicated, but actually it is quite simple!

Companies can be valued in a lot of ways, so we would point out that a DCF is not perfect for every situation. Anyone interested in learning a bit more about intrinsic value should have a read of the Simply Wall St analysis model.

View our latest analysis for Cisco Systems

Crunching the numbers

We're using the 2-stage growth model, which simply means we take in account two stages of company's growth. In the initial period the company may have a higher growth rate and the second stage is usually assumed to have a stable growth rate. To start off with, we need to estimate 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 are 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.

A DCF is all about the idea that a dollar in the future is less valuable than a dollar today, so we discount the value of these future cash flows to their estimated value in today's dollars:

10-year free cash flow (FCF) forecast

2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028
Levered FCF ($, Millions) US$14k US$16k US$16k US$17k US$15k US$15k US$16k US$16k US$16k US$17k
Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x8 Analyst x10 Analyst x5 Analyst x2 Analyst x1 Est @ 0.74% Est @ 1.33% Est @ 1.75% Est @ 2.05% Est @ 2.25%
Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 9.4% US$13k US$13k US$12k US$12k US$9.7k US$9.0k US$8.3k US$7.7k US$7.2k US$6.7k

Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF)= $98.54b

"Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St

The second stage is also known as Terminal Value, this is the business's cash flow after 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 10-year government bond rate (2.7%) 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 9.4%.

Terminal Value (TV) = FCF2029 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$17b × (1 + 2.7%) ÷ (9.4% – 2.7%) = US$254b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV) = TV / (1 + r)10 = $US$254b ÷ ( 1 + 9.4%)10 = $103.57b

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 $202.11b. To get the intrinsic value per share, we divide this by the total number of shares outstanding. This results in an intrinsic value estimate of $45.91. Compared to the current share price of $56.4, the company appears slightly overvalued at the time of writing. DCFs are imprecise instruments though, rather like a telescope - move a few degrees and end up in a different galaxy. Do keep this in mind.

NasdaqGS:CSCO Intrinsic value, April 20th 2019

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. 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 Cisco 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 9.4%, which is based on a levered beta of 1.12. 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.

Next Steps:

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. 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?" 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. What is the reason for the share price to differ from the intrinsic value? For Cisco Systems, There are three important factors you should further examine:

  1. Financial Health: Does CSCO have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.
  2. Future Earnings: How does CSCO'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: Are there other high quality stocks you could be holding instead of CSCO? 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 US stock every day, so if you want to find the intrinsic value of any other stock just search here.

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com. 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. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.