As part of our process, we perform a rigorous discounted cash-flow methodology that dives into the true intrinsic worth of companies. In Western Union's (NYSE:WU) case, we think the firm is currently worth just shy of $25 per share, significantly higher than where it is currently trading.

For some background, we think a comprehensive analysis of a firm'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. This process culminates in our Buying Index, which ranks stocks on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best (click here for a presentation).

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. Western Union scores a 9 on our scale (reflecting its undervaluation and bullish technicals), which is among the best in our coverage universe. We are strongly considering adding the firm to the portfolio in our Best Ideas Newsletter.

**Our Report on Western Union**

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**Investment Considerations**

**Investment Highlights**

Western Union scores fairly well on our Business Quality matrix. The firm has posted solid returns on invested capital with relatively manageable financial risk. Overall, we think Western Union's historical economic returns are nothing to sneeze at, and its risk profile appears reasonable.

Western Union's valuation is compelling at this time. The firm is trading at a nice discount to our estimate of its fair value, even after considering an appropriate margin of safety. The firm's forward earnings multiple and PEG ratio also look attractive versus peers.

Western Union 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 17.7% in coming years. Total debt-to- EBITDA was 2.2 last year, while debt-to-book capitalization stood at 85%.

The firm's shares have underperformed the market benchmark during the past quarter. Although Western Union's valuation appears attractive, the company is currently exhibiting characteristics of a potential value trap, and we would still be cautious at these levels. There may be a better entry point yet.

The firm experienced a revenue CAGR of about 2% during the past three years. We expect its revenue growth to be below that of its peer median during the next five years.

**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 (WACC). The gap or difference between ROIC and WACC is called the firm's economic profit spread. Western Union's three-year historical return on invested capital (without goodwill) is 58.1%, which is above the estimate of its cost of capital of 9.7%. 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 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. Western Union's free cash flow margin has averaged about 20.9% during the past three 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 Western Union, cash flow from operations decreased about 21% from levels registered two years ago, while capital expenditures expanded about 11% over the same time period.

**Valuation Analysis**

Our discounted cash flow model indicates that Western Union's shares are worth between $18 and $30 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 $24 per share represents a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of about 17.6 times last year's earnings and an implied EV/EBITDA multiple of about 11.4 times last year's EBITDA.

Our model reflects a compound annual revenue growth rate of 5.1% during the next five years, a pace that is higher than the firm's three-year historical compound annual growth rate of 2%. Our model reflects a five-year projected average operating margin of 26.7%, which is above Western Union's trailing three-year average. Beyond year 5, we assume free cash flow will grow at an annual rate of 2.6% for the next 15 years and 3% in perpetuity. For Western Union, our model uses a 9.7% 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 $24 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 Western Union. We think the firm is attractive below $18 per share (the green line), but quite expensive above $30 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 Western Union's fair value at this point in time to be about $24 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 Western Union'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 $31 per share in Year 3 represents our existing fair value per share of $24 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.