Calculating the intrinsic value of a firm is as much art as it is science. The art rests in determining the future forecasts and estimates of a company's earnings and cash flow, while the science is the mathematics behind a free cash flow to the firm model. Both are necessary, and both are required. There's no way around it. Let's calculate Rayonier's (NYSE:RYN) intrinsic value.

But first, a little background so you can better understand this article. We think a comprehensive analysis of a firm's discounted cash-flow valuation and relative valuation versus industry peers is the best way to identify the most attractive stocks at the best time to buy. This process culminates in what we call our Valuentum Buying Index, which ranks stocks on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. Essentially, we're looking for firms that overlap investment methodologies, thereby revealing the greatest interest by investors (we like firms that fall in the center of the diagram below). Followers know that more interest in a stock leads to more buying, which leads to a greater likelihood of convergence to intrinsic value.

If a company is undervalued both on a DCF and on a relative valuation basis, it scores high on our scale. Rayonier posts a VBI score of 4 on our scale, reflecting our "over valued" DCF assessment of the firm, its unattractive relative valuation versus peers, and bullish technicals. We compare Rayonier to peers 3M (NYSE:MMM), Honeywell (NYSE:HON), and Tyco Intl (NYSE:TYC).

**Our Report on Rayonier**

**Investment Considerations**

**Investment Highlights**

â€¢ Rayonier scores fairly well on our business quality matrix. The firm has put up solid economic returns for shareholders during the past few years with relatively low volatility in its operating results. Return on invested capital (excluding goodwill) has averaged 14.1% during the past three years.

â€¢ Although we don't think the firm's valuation indicates an attractive investment opportunity at this time, we'd take a closer look if the firm's share price fell below $27. The market seems to be pricing greater long-term revenue growth and profit expansion than we think is achievable.

â€¢ Rayonier has a good combination of strong free cash flow generation and manageable financial leverage. We expect the firm's free cash flow margin to average about 14.2% in coming years. Total debt-to-EBITDA was 1.7 last year, while debt-to-book capitalization stood at 39%.

â€¢ Although we think there may be a better time to dabble in the firm's shares based on our DCF process, the firm's stock has outperformed the market benchmark during the past quarter, indicating increased investor interest in the company.

â€¢ Rayonier is a top forest products company and is one of the largest private timberland owners in the US. The firm also sells real estate and makes specialty cellulose fibers and fluff pulp. Healthy construction end markets remain vital for success.

**Business Quality**

**Economic Profit Analysis**

The best measure of a firm's ability to create value for shareholders is expressed by comparing its return on invested capital (ROIC) with its weighted average cost of capital (OTC:WACC). The gap or difference between ROIC and WACC is called the firm's economic profit spread. Rayonier's 3-year historical return on invested capital (without goodwill) is 14.1%, which is above the estimate of its cost of capital of 10.2%. As such, we assign the firm a ValueCreationâ„¢ rating of GOOD. In the chart below, we show the probable path of ROIC in the years ahead based on the estimated volatility of key drivers behind the measure. The solid gray line reflects the most likely outcome, in our opinion, and represents the scenario that results in our fair value estimate.

**Cash Flow Analysis**

Firms that generate a free cash flow margin (free cash flow divided by total revenue) above 5% are usually considered cash cows. Rayonier's free cash flow margin has averaged about 10.3% during the past 3 years. As such, we think the firm's cash flow generation is relatively STRONG. The free cash flow measure shown above is derived by taking cash flow from operations less capital expenditures and differs from enterprise free cash flow (FCFF), which we use in deriving our fair value estimate for the company. At Rayonier, cash flow from operations increased about 41% from levels registered two years ago, while capital expenditures expanded about 99% over the same time period.

**Valuation Analysis**

Our discounted cash flow model indicates that Rayonier's shares are worth between $27.00-$49.00 each, which means we think the firm is overvalued. The margin of safety around our fair value estimate is driven by the firm's MEDIUM ValueRiskâ„¢ rating, which is derived from the historical volatility of key valuation drivers. The estimated fair value of $38 per share represents a price-to earnings (P/E) ratio of about 17.3 times last year's earnings and an implied EV/EBITDA multiple of about 10.9 times last year's EBITDA. Our model reflects a compound annual revenue growth rate of 5.4% during the next five years, a pace that is lower than the firm's 3-year historical compound annual growth rate of 6.5%. Our model reflects a 5-year projected average operating margin of 24.9%, which is above Rayonier's trailing 3-year average. Beyond year 5, we assume free cash flow will grow at an annual rate of 3.2% for the next 15 years and 3% in perpetuity. For Rayonier, we use a 10.2% weighted average cost of capital to discount future free cash flows.

**Margin of Safety Analysis**

Our discounted cash flow process values each firm on the basis of the present value of all future free cash flows. Although we estimate the firm's fair value at about $38 per share, every company has a range of probable fair values that's created by the uncertainty of key valuation drivers (like future revenue or earnings, for example). After all, if the future was known with certainty, we wouldn't see much volatility in the markets as stocks would trade precisely at their known fair values. Our ValueRiskâ„¢ rating sets the margin of safety or the fair value range we assign to each stock. In the graph below, we show this probable range of fair values for Rayonier. We think the firm is attractive below $27 per share (the green line), but quite expensive above $49 per share (the red line). The prices that fall along the yellow line, which includes our fair value estimate, represent a reasonable valuation for the firm, in our opinion.

**Future Path of Fair Value**

We estimate Rayonier's fair value at this point in time to be about $38 per share. As time passes, however, companies generate cash flow and pay out cash to shareholders in the form of dividends. The chart below compares the firm's current share price with the path of Rayonier's expected equity value per share over the next three years, assuming our long-term projections prove accurate. The range between the resulting downside fair value and upside fair value in Year 3 represents our best estimate of the value of the firm's shares three years hence. This range of potential outcomes is also subject to change over time, should our views on the firm's future cash flow potential change. The expected fair value of $47 per share in Year 3 represents our existing fair value per share of $38 increased at an annual rate of the firm's cost of equity less its dividend yield. The upside and downside ranges are derived in the same way, but from the upper and lower bounds of our fair value estimate range.

**Pro Forma Financial Statements**

**Disclosure: **I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.