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To compare the values of вЂњsimilarвЂќ assets in the market, we need to standardize

the values in some way. They can be standardized relative to the earnings they generate,

to the book value or replacement value of the assets themselves, or to the revenues that

they generate. We discuss each method next.

1. Earnings Multiples

One of the more intuitive ways to think of the value of any asset is as a multiple

of the earnings it generates. When buying a stock, it is common to look at the price paid

as a multiple of the earnings per share generated by the company. This price/earnings

ratio can be estimated using current earnings per share, which is called a trailing PE, or

an expected earnings per share in the next year, called a forward PE. When buying a

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business, as opposed to just the equity in the business, it is common to examine the value

of the firm as a multiple of the operating income or the earnings before interest, taxes,

depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). While, as a buyer of the equity or the firm, a

lower multiple is better than a higher one, these multiples will be affected by the growth

potential and risk of the business being acquired.

2. Book Value or Replacement Value Multiples

While markets provide one estimate of the value of a business, accountants often

provide a very different estimate of the same business. The accounting estimate of book

value is determined by accounting rules and is heavily influenced by the original price

paid for the asset and any accounting adjustments (such as depreciation) made since.

Investors often look at the relationship between the price they pay for a stock and the

book value of equity (or net worth) as a measure of how over- or undervalued a stock is;

the price/book value ratio that emerges can vary widely across industries, depending

again upon the growth potential and the quality of the investments in each. When valuing

businesses, we estimate this ratio using the value of the firm and the book value of all

assets (rather than just the equity). For those who believe that book value is not a good

measure of the true value of the assets, an alternative is to use the replacement cost of the

assets; the ratio of the value of the firm to replacement cost is called37.

3. Revenue Multiples

Both earnings and book value are accounting measures and are determined by

accounting rules and principles. An alternative approach, which is far less affected by

these factors, is to use the ratio of the value of an asset to the revenues it generates. For

equity investors, this ratio is the price/sales ratio (PS), where the market value per share

is divided by the revenues generated per share. For firm value, this ratio can be modified

as the value/sales ratio (VS), where the numerator becomes the total value of the firm.

This ratio, again, varies widely across sectors, largely as a function of the profit margins

in each. The advantage of using revenue multiples, however, is that it becomes far easier

37 See Chung and Pruitt for a simple approximation of Tobin's Q.

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to compare firms in different markets, with different accounting systems at work, than it

is to compare earnings or book value multiples.

Determinants of Multiples

One reason commonly given for the use of these multiples to value equity and

firms is that they require far fewer assumptions than does discounted cash flow valuation.

We believe this is a misconception. The difference between discounted cash flow

valuation and relative valuation is that the assumptions we make are explicit in the former

and remain implicit in the latter. It is important that we know what the variables are that

cause multiples to change, since these are the variables we have to control for when

comparing these multiples across firms.

To look under the hood, so to speak, of equity and firm value multiples, we will

go back to fairly simple discounted cash flow models for equity and firm value and use

them to derive our multiples. Thus, the simplest discounted cash flow model for equity,

which is a stable growth dividend discount model, would suggest that the value of equity

is:

DPS1

Value of Equity = P0 =

ke ! gn

where DPS1 is the expected dividend in the next year, ke is the cost of equity and gn is the

expected stable growth rate. Dividing both sides by the earnings, we obtain the

discounted cash flow equation specifying the PE ratio for a stable growth firm:

P0 Payout Ratio * (1 + gn )

= PE =

EPS0 k e -g n

Dividing both sides by the book value of equity, we can estimate the price/book value

ratio for a stable growth firm:

P0 ROE * Payout Ratio *(1 + g n )

= PBV =

BV0 k -g e n

where ROE is the return on equity. Dividing by the Sales per share, the price/sales ratio

for a stable growth firm can be estimated as a function of its profit margin, payout ratio,

profit margin, and expected growth.

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P0 Net Profit Margin * Payout Ratio * (1 + g n )

= PS =

Sales 0 k -g

e n

We can do a similar analysis from the perspective of firm valuation38. The value

of a firm in stable growth can be written as:

!

FCFF1

Value of Firm = V0 =

kc ! g n

Dividing both sides by the expected free cash flow to the firm yields the Value/FCFF

multiple for a stable growth firm:

V0 1

=

FCFF1 k c ! gn

Since the free cash flow the firm is the after-tax operating income netted against

the net capital expenditures and working capital needs of the firm, the multiples of EBIT,

after-tax EBIT and EBITDA can also be estimated similarly. The value/EBITDA

multiple, for instance, can be written as follows:

Value (1- t) Depr (t)/EBITDA CEx/EBITDA ! Working Capital/EBITDA

= + - -

EBITDA kc - g kc - g kc - g kc - g

The point of this analysis is not to suggest that we go back to using discounted

cash flow valuation but to understand the variables that may cause these multiples to vary

across firms in the same sector. If we ignore these variables, we might conclude that a

stock with a PE of 8 is cheaper than one with a PE of 12, when the true reason may be

that the latter has higher expected growth or we might decide that a stock with a P/BV

ratio of 0.7 is cheaper than one with a P/BV ratio of 1.5, when the true reason may be that

the latter has a much higher return on equity. Table 12.7 lists the multiples that are widely

used and the variables that determine each; the variable that, in our view, is the most

significant determinant is highlighted for each multiple. This variable is what we would

call the companion variable for this multiple, i.e., the one variable we need to know in

order to use this multiple to find under or over valued assets.

38 In practice, cash and marketable securities are subtracted from firm value to arrive at what is called

enterprise value. All the multiples in the following section can be written in terms of enterprise value, and

the determinants remain unchanged.

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Table 12.7: Multiples and Companion Variables (in italics)

Multiple Determining Variables

Price/Earnings Ratio Growth, Payout, Risk

Price/Book Value Ratio Growth, Payout, Risk, ROE

Price/Sales Ratio Growth, Payout, Risk, Net Margin

Value/EBIT Growth, Net Capital Expenditure needs, Leverage, Risk

Value/EBIT (1-t)

Value/EBITDA

Value/Sales Growth, Net Capital Expenditure needs, Leverage, Risk,

Operating Margin

Value/Book Capital Growth, Leverage, Risk and ROC

eqmult.xls: This spreadsheet allows you to estimate the equity multiples for a firm,

given its fundamentals.

firmmult.xls: This spreadsheet allows you to estimate the firm value multiples for a

firm, given its fundamentals.

The Use of Comparable Firms

When we use multiples, we tend to use them in conjunction with вЂњcomparableвЂќ

firms to determine the value of a firm or its equity. This analysis begins with two choices

- the multiple that will be used in the analysis and the group of firms that will comprise

the comparable firms. The multiple is computed for each of the comparable firms, and the

average is computed. To evaluate an individual firm, we then compare its multiple to the

average computed; if it is significantly different, we make a subjective judgment about

whether the firmвЂ™s individual characteristics (growth, risk or cash flows) may explain the

difference. Thus, a firm may have a PE ratio of 22 in a sector where the average PE is

only 15, but the analyst may conclude that this difference can be justified because the

firm has higher growth potential than the average firm in the industry. If, in the analystsвЂ™

judgment, the difference on the multiple cannot be explained by the variables listed in

Table 12.7, the firm will be viewed as over valued (if its multiple is higher than the

average) or undervalued (if its multiple is lower than the average). Choosing comparable

firms, and adequately controlling for differences across these comparable firms, then

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become critical steps in this process. In this section, we will consider both these

decisions.

1. Choosing Comparables

The first step in relative valuation is usually the selection of comparable firms. A

comparable firm is one with cash flows, growth potential, and risk similar to the firm

being valued. It would be ideal if we could value a firm by looking at how an exactly

identical firm - in terms of risk, growth and cash flows - is priced. In most analyses,

however, analysts define comparable firms to be other firms in the firmвЂ™s business or

businesses. If there are enough firms in the industry to allow for it, this list is pruned

further using other criteria; for instance, only firms of similar size may be considered.

The implicit assumption being made here is that firms in the same sector have similar

risk, growth, and cash flow profiles and therefore can be compared with much more

legitimacy.

This approach becomes more difficult to apply when there are relatively few firms

in a sector. In most markets outside the United States, the number of publicly traded

firms in a particular sector, especially if it is defined narrowly, is small. It is also difficult

to find comparable firms if differences in risk, growth and cash flow profiles across firms

within a sector are large. Thus, there may be hundreds of computer software companies

listed in the United States, but the differences across these firms are also large. The

tradeoff is therefore a simple one. Defining a industry more broadly increases the number

of comparable firms, but it also results in a more diverse group.

2. Controlling for Differences across Firms

In Table 12.7, we listed the variables that determined each multiple. Since it is

impossible to find firms identical to the one being valued, we have to find ways of

controlling for differences across firms on these variables. The process of controlling for

the variables can range from very simple approaches, which modify the multiples to take

into account differences on one key variable, to more complex approaches that allow for

differences on more than one variable.

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a. Simple Adjustments

Let us start with the simple approaches. In this case, we modify the multiple to

take into account the most important variable determining it. Thus, the PE ratio is divided

by the expected growth rate in EPS for a company to determine a growth-adjusted PE

ratio or the PEG ratio. Similarly, the PBV ratio is divided by the ROE to find a Value

Ratio, and the price sales ratio is divided by the net margin. These modified ratios are

then compared across companies in a sector. The implicit assumption we make is that

these firms are comparable on all the other measures of value, besides the one being

controlled for.

Illustration 12.14: Comparing PE ratios and growth rates across firms: Entertainment

companies

To value Disney, we look at the PE ratios and expected growth rates in EPS over

the next 5 years, based on consensus estimates from analysts, for all entertainment

companies where data is available on PE ratios and analyst estimates of expected growth

in earnings over the next 5 years. Table 12.8 lists the firms and PE ratios.

Table 12.8: Entertainment firms вЂ“ PE Ratios and Growth Rates вЂ“ 2004

Ticker Expected

Symbol Growth Rate

Company Name PE PEG

Point 360 PTSX 10.62 5.00% 2.12

Fox Entmt Group Inc FOX 22.03 14.46% 1.52

Belo Corp. 'A' BLC 25.65 16.00% 1.60

Hearst-Argyle Television Inc HTV 26.72 12.90% 2.07

Journal Communications Inc. JRN 27.94 10.00% 2.79

Saga Communic. 'A' SGA 28.42 19.00% 1.50

Viacom Inc. 'B' VIA/B 29.38 13.50% 2.18

Pixar PIXR 29.80 16.50% 1.81

Disney (Walt) DIS 29.87 12.00% 2.49

Westwood One WON 32.59 19.50% 1.67

World Wrestling Ent. WWE 33.52 20.00% 1.68

Cox Radio 'A' Inc CXR 33.76 18.70% 1.81

Beasley Broadcast Group Inc BBGI 34.06 15.23% 2.24

Entercom Comm. Corp ETM 36.11 15.43% 2.34

Liberty Corp. LC 37.54 19.50% 1.92

Ballantyne of Omaha Inc BTNE 55.17 17.10% 3.23

Regent Communications Inc RGCI 57.84 22.67% 2.55

Emmis Communications EMMS 74.89 16.50% 4.54

Cumulus Media Inc CMLS 94.35 23.30% 4.05

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Univision Communic. UVN 122.76 24.50% 5.01

Salem Communications Corp SALM 145.67 28.75% 5.07

Average for sector 47.08 17.17% 2.74

Source: Value Line

This simple view of multiples leads us to conclude that Disney should trade at 47.08

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