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  • Scripps Networks develops lifestyle-oriented content for television and the web. Its TV networks include the Food Network, HGTV, and the Travel Channel, among others.
  • Scripps Networks has an excellent combination of strong free cash flow generation and low financial leverage.
  • Let's take shares through the Valuentum process to learn more about the company.

One of the most important things to understand as it relates to the stock market is that performance depends not on what you think a company is worth, but instead, it depends on what others think a company is worth. Once investors grasp that it is others, through their buying and selling, that moves stock prices, investors then can focus on the vital information behind others' decision-making processes, and by extension, take important steps toward improving their own financial outcomes. This way of thinking should be common knowledge within the investment community, but it is not. Let's run shares of Scripps (NYSE:SNI) through the Valuentum style, which accepts the aforementioned premise as its core.

For those that may not be familiar with our boutique research firm, we think a comprehensive analysis of a company's discounted cash flow valuation, relative valuation versus industry peers, as well as an assessment of technical and momentum indicators is the best way to identify the most attractive stocks at the best time to buy. We think stocks that are cheap (undervalued) and just starting to go up (momentum) are some of the best ones to evaluate for addition to the portfolios. These stocks have both strong valuation and pricing support. 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.

Most stocks that are cheap and just starting to go up are also adored by value, growth, GARP, and momentum investors, all the same and across the board. Though we are purely fundamentally-based investors, we find that the stocks we like (underpriced stocks with strong momentum) are the ones that are soon to be liked by a large variety of money managers. We think this characteristic is partly responsible for the outperformance of our ideas -- as they are soon to experience heavy buying interest. Regardless of a money manager's focus, the Valuentum process covers the bases.

We liken stock selection to a modern-day beauty contest. In order to pick the winner of a beauty contest, one must know the preferences of the judges of a beauty contest. The contestant that is liked by the most judges will win, and in a similar respect, the stock that is liked by the most money managers will win. We may have our own views on which companies we like or which contestant we like, but it doesn't matter much if the money managers or judges disagree. That's why we focus on the DCF -- that's why we focus on relative value -- and that's why we use technical and momentum indicators. We think a comprehensive and systematic analysis applied across a coverage universe is the key to outperformance. We are tuned into what drives stocks higher and lower. Some investors know no other way to invest than the Valuentum process. They call this way of thinking common sense.

At the methodology's core, if a company is undervalued both on a discounted cash flow basis and on a relative valuation basis, and is showing improvement in technical and momentum indicators, it scores high on our scale. Scripps Networks posts a Valuentum Buying Index score of 3, reflecting our "fairly valued" DCF assessment of the firm, its neutral relative valuation versus peers, and bearish technicals. Given where shares are trading, upon our next update and based on our estimate of its fair value range, we'd rate them as 'overvalued.'

Said differently, we wouldn't be rushing to add shares of Scripps to the Best Ideas portfolio, as we tend to prefer higher-rated firms with scores of a 9 or 10 (equivalent to a "we'd consider buying" rating). Higher rated firms have both strong valuation and pricing support. Scripps may register a lower score on the index upon the next update. We perform this extensive Valuentum process on all firms in our coverage universe (click here for the list of firms we follow).

Scripps Networks' Investment Considerations

Investment Highlights

• Scripps Networks' business quality (an evaluation of our ValueCreation™ and ValueRisk™ ratings) ranks among the best of the firms in our coverage universe. The firm has been generating economic value for shareholders with relatively stable operating results for the past few years, a combination we view very positively.

• Scripps Networks develops lifestyle-oriented content for television and the web. Its television networks are Food Network, Home and Garden Television (HGTV), Travel Channel, DIY Network, Cooking Channel and Great American Country. HGTV and Food Network account for ~70% of revenue by brand.

• Scripps Networks 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 28.9% in coming years. Total debt-to-EBITDA was 0.8 last year, while debt-to-book capitalization stood at 39.7%.

• The firm's performance is heavily dependent on the ability of its brands to attract upscale, engaged audiences. In this department, Scripps is doing well. For example, HGTV continues to gain viewers, and it is the top cable network for upscale women. Successful programming franchises include 'Property Brothers', 'Love It or List It' and 'House Hunters'.

• Scripps' DIY Network is also performing at a high level. The network is experiencing double-digit growth thanks to the Crashers series, 'Desperate Landscapes' and 'Homes Makes It Right'. Breakout hit 'Cutthroat Kitchen' has also ignited the Food Network.

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 with its weighted average cost of capital. The gap or difference between ROIC and WACC is called the firm's economic profit spread. Scripps Networks' 3-year historical return on invested capital (without goodwill) is 18.4%, which is above the estimate of its cost of capital of 10%. As such, we assign the firm a ValueCreation™ 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. Scripps Networks' free cash flow margin has averaged about 30.4% 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 At Scripps Networks, cash flow from operations increased about 11% from levels registered two years ago, while capital expenditures expanded about 35% over the same time period.

Valuation Analysis

Our discounted cash flow model indicates that Scripps Networks' shares are worth between $53-$79 each. Shares are trading north of the fair value range at present, indicating that upon the next update, we'd rate them as 'overvalued'. The margin of safety around our fair value estimate is driven by the firm's LOW ValueRisk™ rating, which is derived from the historical volatility of key valuation drivers. The estimated fair value of $66 per share represents a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of about 19.4 times last year's earnings and an implied EV/EBITDA multiple of about 6.3 times last year's EBITDA. Our model reflects a compound annual revenue growth rate of 6% during the next five years, a pace that is lower than the firm's 3-year historical compound annual growth rate of 7%. Our model reflects a 5-year projected average operating margin of 43%, which is above Scripps Networks' trailing 3-year average. We're building in solid revenue and profit expansion in the forecast horizon. Beyond year 5, we assume free cash flow will grow at an annual rate of 3.3% for the next 15 years and 3% in perpetuity. For Scripps Networks, we use a 10% weighted average cost of capital to discount future free cash flows.

We understand the critical importance of assessing firms on a relative value basis, versus both their industry and peers. Many institutional money managers -- those that drive stock prices -- pay attention to a company's price-to-earnings ratio and price-earnings-to-growth ratio in making buy/sell decisions. With this in mind, we have included a forward-looking relative value assessment in our process to further augment our rigorous discounted cash flow process. If a company is undervalued on both a price-to-earnings ratio and a price-earnings-to-growth ratio versus industry peers, we would consider the firm to be attractive from a relative value standpoint. For relative valuation purposes, we compare Scripps Networks to peers CBS Corp (NYSE:CBS) and CTC Media (NASDAQ:CTCM).

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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 $66 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 Scripps Networks. We think the firm is attractive below $53 per share (the green line), but quite expensive above $79 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 Scripps Networks' fair value at this point in time to be about $66 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 Scripps Networks' 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 $87 per share in Year 3 represents our existing fair value per share of $66 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

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In the spirit of transparency, we show how the performance of the Valuentum Buying Index has stacked up per underlying score as it relates to firms in the Best Ideas portfolio. Past results are not a guarantee of future performance.

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