4. Project valuation through FCFF
In a simple world, an investor would put his or hers money on a company, which in turn would generate a profit. The investor could then collect the entire net income in the form of dividends. But the world is not so simple:
- Net income is not equal to the cash that is generated through an economic activity.
- Companies need to reinvest in order to keep competitive.
- Companies retain most earnings, which means that dividends do not correspond to the net income.
- Dividends payment policy is related to more than jut the net income. It can be somehow erratic and detached from the company’s performance.
- The payout ratio varies within industries.
- Most private companies do not pay dividends to the equity holders.
- Companies get their financing from both equity and debt and the entirety of the debt service has to be in the equation.
Hence, in most situations (specially in private companies) the economic benefits of capital holders cannot be directly inferred by either the net income or by the dividends that the company pays. The solution is to use the economic benefits that the company generates: the Free Cash Flow (FCF).
The FCF is the cash that the company makes available for the holders of the company’s capital through its operational, financing and investment activities. The cash flows are the economic benefits of those who have invested in the company. The income statement only presents the revenues and expenditures; it does not identify the entries and withdrawals of cash and, on top of it, the income statement includes items that do not represent any cash movement, as is the case of the depreciations.
Since there are two types of holders of capital (equity holders and debt holders), the FCF of a firm is commonly calculated under two perspectives:
- FCFF (Free Cash Flow to the Firm) – the cash flows that are available for both the debt holders and the equity holders.
- FCFE (Free Cash Flow to Equity) – the cash flows that are only available for the equity holders.
Because there may be different grades of equity holders, just consider that the FCFE corresponds to the holders of ordinary capital.
It is important to always take in consideration the distinction between FCF, FCFF and FCFE, as it can induce in errors. The FCF may be a reference to either the FCFF or the FCFE without any particular discrimination of which.
Valuing a company or project by FCF, FCFE or FCFF is not completely the same, nor does it use the same assumptions (despite being similar). By using the FCFF you will reach to the business value, using the FCFE while bring you to the equity value. Since there are two forms of capital it is easy to understand the relation between business value and equity value:
- \({Company\ value }= {Equity\ value + Debt\ value}\)
How to calculate the FCFF
The calculation of the FCFF is based on information that can be retrieved from the financial statements of a company. It is common to start from:
- the EBITDA.
- the EBIT.
- the net income.
Independently of which item you start of, you must always attain the same FCFF.
From the EBIT to FCFF
- \(FCFF=EBIT\left(1-t\right)+NCC-\mathrm{\Delta WCI}-Inv\)
Where,
- EBIT: earnings before financing costs and taxes.
- t: the corporate income tax.
- NCC: net non-cash charges.
- Δ WCI: variations on the working capital investment.
- Inv: Investment in fixed assets.
NCC
The NCC is the net balance of the gains and losses that do not reflect any cash flow. Typically, the depreciations are the main components of the NCC. However, there are other items that can be considered as NCC, such as:
- Internal projects.
- Impairment of inventories (losses or reversals).
- Impairment of receivables (losses or reversals).
- Provisions (increases or reductions).
- Impairment of investments not depreciable/amortizable (losses or reversals).
- Impairments-other (losses orreversals).
- Increases or reductions in fair value.
- Impairment of depreciable/amortizable investment (losses or reversals).
Most literature normally refers only to depreciations and provisions without references to other NCC. However, to not account for other NCC accounts can lead to deviations of the FCFF which can influence the valuation of a project or company.
Example case: Dutch Fabric Innovations
Let’s consider the computation of the FCFF of Dutch Fabric Innovations for the first 5 years of the project:
Values in EUR | 2020 | 2021 | 2022 | 2023 | 2024 |
EBIT | -68 721 | 126 066 | 762 757 | 2 020 079 | 3 899 382 |
t | 0,25 | 0,25 | 0,25 | 0,25 | 0,25 |
Operational corporate tax | 0 | 31 517 | 190 689 | 505 020 | 974 846 |
EBIT (1-t) | -68 721 | 94 550 | 572 068 | 1 515 059 | 2 924 537 |
NCC | 6 062 | 16 490 | 34 217 | 52 489 | 53 789 |
ΔWCI | -88 101 | -61 731 | -287 674 | -393 426 | -552 168 |
Inv | 178 720 | 0 | 223 480 | 67 600 | 0 |
FCFF | -153 278 | 172 771 | 670 478 | 1 893 373 | 3 530 494 |
Focusing on the FCFF of 2020, firstly we need to remove from EBIT the operational corporate tax. However, in 2020, EBIT is negative so it is not subject to the referred tax. Therefore, its value does not suffer any changes.
Given this, we can use the FCFF formula:
\(FCFF=-68\ 721,34+6\ 061,85-(-88\ 101,07)-178\ 720,00=-153\ 278,41€\)The same method applies to the following years and EBIT will be subject to taxes from 2020 on, since it is no longer negative.
Example case: Golden Days
Let’s consider the computation of the FCFF of Golden Days for the first 5 years of the project:
2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022 | 2023 | |
EBIT | -36 568 | 31 347 | 239 509 | 312 059 | 358 558 |
t | 0,30 | 0,30 | 0,30 | 0,30 | 0,30 |
Operational corporate tax | 0 | 9 404 | 71 853 | 93 618 | 107 567 |
EBIT (1-t) | -36 568 | 21 943 | 167 656 | 218 441 | 250 990 |
NCC | 358 | 7 822 | 8 420 | 12 856 | 8 239 |
ΔWCI | -14 712 | 34 693 | -49 164 | -11 072 | -6 122 |
Inv | 5 500 | 27 000 | 1 300 | 22 300 | 0 |
FCFF | -26 998 | -31 929 | 223 940 | 220 069 | 265 351 |
Let’s focus on the computation for the year of 2019.
First, we need to remove from EBIT the operational corporate tax. However, in 2019, EBIT is negative so it is not subject to the referred tax. Therefore, its value does not suffer any changes.
Given this, we can use the FCFF formula:
\(FCFF=-36\ 568,23+358,30-(-14\ 712,32)-5\ 500,00=-26\ 997,60$ \)
The same method applies to the following years and EBIT will be subject to taxes from 2020 on, since it is no longer negative.
From the EBITDA to FCFF
Getting to the FCFF starting on the EBITDA is similar to the EBIT.
- \(FCFF=EBITDA(1-t)+(NCC)(t)-\mathrm{\Delta WCI}-Inv\)
Where,
- EBITDA: earnings before depreciation, financing costs and taxes.
- t: the corporate income tax.
- NCC: net non-cash charges.
- Δ WCI: variations on the working capital investment.
- Inv: Investment in fixed assets.
From the net income to FCFF
The FCFF can also be obtained through the net income.
- \(FCFF=NI+NCC+D(1-t)-\mathrm{\Delta WCI}-Inv\)
Where,
- NI: net income.
- D: Debt.
Analysis of the FCFF
Always remember that the FCFF are not dividends or cash that was indeed paid to the holders of capital. It is available, meaning that it can be used to pay equity holders and debt holders whenever necessary. If not paid, the FCFF will accumulate within the company until debt and interest payment or dividend distribution takes place.
Despite being stated as the value that can be made available to holders of capital, the FCFF may be positive or negative. A positive FCFF means that the company is accumulating financial flows that can be distributed. A negative FCFF reduces the overall amount of funds that can be made available to holders of capital. A non-recurring negative FCFF does not imply a need for extra financing; if the company has sufficient resources, it will not need to refinance. However, constant negative financial flows through several periods will lead to an increase of the company’s financing.
Valuing a company or project through FCFF
Valuation of companies and projects through FCFF presupposes that the cash flows of future years can be made available to holders of capital. The accumulation of future cash flows will return the business value: the value that will be created by the company’s operations and investment for capital holders.
Remember: while working with forecasts of the FCFF, the business value is itself based on assumptions and not a statement that the forecasted FCFF will become true.
As in any valuation of financial flows, it is necessary to incorporate the cost of capital, so that the future FCFF have a common correspondence to a present value. Because the FCFF corresponds to the cash flows available to the entirety of capital, the adequate discount factor is the WACC. Summarizing, the business value corresponds to the sum of the discounted FCFF:
- \(Business\ value=\ \frac{{FCFF}_1}{{(1+WACC)}^1}+\frac{{FCFF}_2}{{(1+WACC)}^2}+\frac{{FCFF}_3}{{(1+WACC)}^3}+\frac{{FCFF}_4}{{(1+WACC)}^4}+\ldots\)
Simplifying:
- \(Business\ value=\sum_{i=1}^{\infty}\frac{{FCFF}_t}{(1+{WACC)}^t}\)
Example – Calculating the business value
Kimi has a business project that he expects will earn him the following array of FCFF:
Year | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |
FCFF | -500.000 EUR | 450.000 EUR | 350.000 EUR | 250.000 EUR | 150.000 EUR |
After these five years, the project will end and no further FCFF will be generated. He has estimated that the WACC of his project is 11,35%. The business value of the project is calculated the following way:
- \(Business\ value=\ \frac{500.000}{{(1+0.1135)}^1}+\frac{450.000}{{(1+0.1135)}^2}+\frac{350.000}{{(1+0.1135)}^3}+\frac{250.000}{{(1+0.1135)}^4}+\frac{150.000}{{(1+0.1135)}^5}\)
Year | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |
FCFF | -500.000 | 450.000 | 350.000 | 250.000 | 150.000 |
Cost of capital | 0,1135 | 0,1135 | 0,1135 | 0,1135 | 0,1135 |
Discount factor | 1,1135 | 1,239882 | 1,380609 | 1,537308 | 1,711792 |
Discounted FCFF | -449.035 | 362.938 | 253.511 | 162.622 | 87.627 |
Accumulated discounted FCFF | -449.035 | -86.097 | 167.414 | 330.036 | 417.664 |
The value business value, as the sum of the discounted FCFF, is: 417.664 EUR. The payback (of the discounted FCFF) of the project is the third year.
The previous example illustrated the valuation of only 5 years of business (that was a case assumption). But there are situations in which the valuation is for a longer extent of time. It is a common practice to value a businesses on a continuous basis, meaning that the company does not have a foreseeable end. Although that can be debatable, such assumption is grounded on the belief that a business provides goods and services that are always necessary. Furthermore, due to the minor relevance of the present value of the cash flows of the years that are further way in time (consequence of the cost of capital), the business value is usually less affected by the later years.
Example – the discounted value of FCFF through the years
Take company AAA. It is forecasted to generate a constant yearly FCFF of 100 EUR per year. It was also assumed a WACC of 5%. The following graph represents the present value contribution of each year for a 100 year period.
The “incline” of the curve is influenced by the cost of capital. If the WACC was 10% instead of 5%, it would increase the “speed” at which the present value of the cash flow of each year would become smaller.
This example is just a simplification that does not consider any growth or any other assumption.
Taking into consideration the timeline of value, while valuing a business or project through FCFF you can:
Next Section: 4.1. Use a perpetuity on a FCFF