As part of our process, we perform a rigorous discounted cash-flow methodology that dives into the true intrinsic worth of companies. In Vulcan Materials' (VMC) case, we think the firm is overvalued. We think it is fairly valued at $26 per share, representing over 50% downside from today's levels based on our point fair value estimate. The market seems to be pricing in way too optimistic revenue and earnings expansion in coming years.
Before we dive into our valuation assumptions, which we disclose for all companies, let's provide a little background to help with the understanding of some of the metrics in this article. At Valuentum, 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 (click here for an in-depth presentation about our methodology), 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):
If a company is undervalued both on a DCF and on a relative valuation basis, it scores high on our scale. Vulcan Materials posts a VBI score of 4 on our scale, reflecting our 'overvalued' DCF assessment of the firm, its unattractive relative valuation versus peers, and very bullish technicals. We compare Vulcan Materials to peers BHP Billiton (BHP), Rio Tinto (RIO), and Freeport McMoRan (FCX).
Our Report on Vulcan Materials
• Vulcan Materials' average return on invested capital has trailed its cost of capital during the past few years, indicating weakness in business fundamentals and an inability to earn economic profits through the course of the economic cycle. We think there are better quality firms out there.
• 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 $20. The market seems to be pricing greater long-term revenue growth and profit expansion than we think is achievable.
• Vulcan Materials' cash flow generation is about what we'd expect from an average company in our coverage universe. However, the firm's financial leverage is on the high side. If cash flows begin to falter, we'd grow more cautious on the firm's overall financial health.
• The firm's shares haven't performed all that well compared with the market benchmark. Without an attractive valuation for support, investors are likely moving toward the exit with its stock. The share price could have further room to fall, in our opinion.
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. Vulcan Materials' 3-year historical return on invested capital (without goodwill) is -1.1%, which is below the estimate of its cost of capital of 9.5%. As such, we assign the firm a ValueCreation™ rating of VERY POOR. 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 grey 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. Vulcan Materials' free cash flow margin has averaged about 4.2% during the past 3 years. As such, we think the firm's cash flow generation is relatively MEDIUM. 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. For more information on the differences between these two measures, please visit our website at Valuentum.com. At Vulcan Materials, cash flow from operations increased about 21% from levels registered two years ago, while capital expenditures expanded about 8% over the same time period.
Our discounted cash flow model indicates that Vulcan Materials's shares are worth between $20.00 - $32.00 each. The margin of safety around our fair value estimate is driven by the firm's MEDIUM ValueRisk™ rating, which is derived from the historical volatility of key valuation drivers. The estimated fair value of $26 per share represents a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of about -62.6 times last year's earnings and an implied EV/EBITDA multiple of about 15.9 times last year's EBITDA. Our model reflects a compound annual revenue growth rate of 8.2% during the next five years, a pace that is higher than the firm's 3-year historical compound annual growth rate of - 1.6%. Our model reflects a 5-year projected average operating margin of 13%, which is above Vulcan Materials's trailing 3-year average. Beyond year 5, we assume free cash flow will grow at an annual rate of 1% for the next 15 years and 3% in perpetuity. For Vulcan Materials, we use a 9.5% 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 $26 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 ValueRisk™ 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 Vulcan Materials. We think the firm is attractive below $20 per share (the green line), but quite expensive above $32 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 Vulcan Materials' fair value at this point in time to be about $26 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 Vulcan Materials' 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 $35 per share in Year 3 represents our existing fair value per share of $26 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.