Savvy investors know that the valuation of a company is critical to assessing whether it is an attractive investment opportunity. That's why we perform a rigorous discounted cash-flow methodology that is a key component of our Valuentum Buying Index. Let's dig into how we calculate Chipotle's (NYSE:CMG) intrinsic value in this article.

But first, a little background to help you understand our article. Our Valuentum Buying Index ranks stocks on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. Essentially, we at Valuentum are 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). Valuentum followers know the '12 Steps to Understand the Stock Market' and understand the importance of others eventually coming around to one's investment thesis on a company. We encourage investors to read the '12 Steps' and then return to this article.

If a company is undervalued both on a DCF and on a relative valuation basis and is showing improvement in technical and momentum indicators, it scores high on our scale. Chipotle posts a VBI score of 6 on our scale, reflecting our 'fairly valued' DCF assessment of the firm, its unattractive relative valuation versus peers, and bullish technicals. We compare Chipotle to peers McDonald's (NYSE:MCD), Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), and Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM). In the spirit of transparency, we show how the performance of our has stacked up versus peers:

**Our Report on Chipotle**

**Investment Considerations**

**Investment Highlights**

â˘ Chipotle earns a ValueCreationâ˘ rating of EXCELLENT, the highest possible mark on our scale. The firm has been generating economic value for shareholders for the past few years, a track record we view very positively. We expect the firm's return on invested capital (excluding goodwill) to expand to 45.6% from 39.8% during the next two years.

â˘ Chipotle has an excellent combination of strong free cash flow generation and low financial leverage. We expect the firm's free cash flow margin to average about 8.8% in coming years. Total debt-to-EBITDA was 0 last year, while debt-to-book capitalization stood at 0.3%.

â˘ The firm's share price performance has been roughly in line with that of the market during the past quarter. We'd expect the firm's stock price to converge to our fair value estimate within the next three years, if our forecasts prove accurate.

â˘ The firm experienced a revenue CAGR of about 21.6% during the past 3 years. We expect its revenue growth to be better than its peer median during the next five years.

**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 (NASDAQ: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. Chipotle's 3-year historical return on invested capital (without goodwill) is 36.4%, which is above the estimate of its cost of capital of 10.8%. As such, we assign the firm a ValueCreationâ˘ rating of EXCELLENT. 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. Chipotle's free cash flow margin has averaged about 9.7% 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. For more information on the differences between these two measures, please visit our website at Valuentum.com. At Chipotle, cash flow from operations increased about 45% from levels registered two years ago, while capital expenditures expanded about 74% over the same time period.

**Valuation Analysis**

Our discounted cash flow model indicates that Chipotle's shares are worth between $182.00 - $338.00 each. 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 $260 per share represents a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of about 29.7 times last year's earnings and an implied EV/EBITDA multiple of about 14.3 times last year's EBITDA.* Our model reflects a compound annual revenue growth rate of 14.4% during the next five years, a pace that is lower than the firm's 3-year historical compound annual growth rate of 21.6%. Our model reflects a 5-year projected average operating margin of 17.2%, which is above Chipotle's trailing 3-year average. Beyond year 5, we assume free cash flow will grow at an annual rate of 7.6% for the next 15 years and 3% in perpetuity. For Chipotle, we use a 10.8% 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 $260 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 Chipotle. We think the firm is attractive below $182 per share (the green line), but quite expensive above $338 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 Chipotle's fair value at this point in time to be about $260 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 Chipotle'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 $354 per share in Year 3 represents our existing fair value per share of $260 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.