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Is International Paper Company (NYSE:IP) Trading At A 49% Discount?

Key Insights

  • The projected fair value for International Paper is US$68.79 based on 2 Stage Free Cash Flow to Equity

  • Current share price of US$35.26 suggests International Paper is potentially 49% undervalued

  • Analyst price target for IP is US$40.66 which is 41% below our fair value estimate

Today we'll do a simple run through of a valuation method used to estimate the attractiveness of International Paper Company (NYSE:IP) as an investment opportunity by taking the forecast future cash flows of the company and discounting them back 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.

We would caution that there are many ways of valuing a company and, like the DCF, each technique has advantages and disadvantages in certain scenarios. If you want to learn more about discounted cash flow, the rationale behind this calculation can be read in detail in the Simply Wall St analysis model.

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See our latest analysis for International Paper

The Model

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. In the first stage we need to estimate the cash flows to the business over the next ten years. 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.

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

2024

2025

2026

2027

2028

2029

2030

2031

2032

2033

Levered FCF ($, Millions)

US$757.1m

US$1.06b

US$1.21b

US$1.09b

US$1.13b

US$1.14b

US$1.16b

US$1.18b

US$1.21b

US$1.23b

Growth Rate Estimate Source

Analyst x7

Analyst x6

Analyst x3

Analyst x1

Analyst x1

Est @ 1.30%

Est @ 1.59%

Est @ 1.80%

Est @ 1.95%

Est @ 2.05%

Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 6.5%

US$711

US$932

US$1.0k

US$848

US$825

US$785

US$749

US$716

US$685

US$657

("Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St)
Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = US$7.9b

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. 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 5-year average of the 10-year government bond yield (2.3%) 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 6.5%.

Terminal Value (TV)= FCF2033 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$1.2b× (1 + 2.3%) ÷ (6.5%– 2.3%) = US$30b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV)= TV / (1 + r)10= US$30b÷ ( 1 + 6.5%)10= US$16b

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$24b. In the final step we divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. Relative to the current share price of US$35.3, the company appears quite good value at a 49% discount to where the stock price trades currently. 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

The Assumptions

The calculation above is very dependent on two assumptions. The first is the discount rate and the other is the 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 International Paper 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 6.5%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.914. 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 International Paper

Strength

  • Debt is well covered by earnings and cashflows.

  • Dividend is in the top 25% of dividend payers in the market.

Weakness

  • Earnings declined over the past year.

Opportunity

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

  • Trading below our estimate of fair value by more than 20%.

Threat

  • Dividends are not covered by earnings and cashflows.

  • Annual revenue is forecast to grow slower than the American market.

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. It's not possible to obtain a foolproof valuation with a DCF model. 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 sitting below the intrinsic value? For International Paper, we've put together three important aspects you should further research:

  1. Risks: We feel that you should assess the 4 warning signs for International Paper (1 shouldn't be ignored!) we've flagged before making an investment in the company.

  2. Future Earnings: How does IP'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 Solid Businesses: Low debt, high returns on equity and good past performance are fundamental to a strong business. Why not explore our interactive list of stocks with solid business fundamentals to see if there are other companies you may not have considered!

PS. The Simply Wall St app conducts a discounted cash flow valuation for every stock on the NYSE every day. If you want to find the calculation for other stocks 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.