Morningstar's Stock Is Not Cheap

| About: Morningstar, Inc. (MORN)

As part of our process, we perform a rigorous discounted cash-flow methodology that dives into the true intrinsic worth of companies. In Morningstar's (NASDAQ:MORN) case, we think the firm is overvalued. We think the shares are worth $51 each, slightly lower than our previous fair value estimate of the mutual fund company.

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. Our process is consistent with the documented work that indicates a combined value-momentum approach is superior on a risk-adjusted basis to the strategies of value, growth, and momentum approaches, individually, and a combined growth-momentum portfolio, on average. We reveal these findings in our white paper here.

In the spirit of transparency, we show how the performance of our VBI has stacked up per underlying score:

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. Morningstar posts a VBI score of 4 on our scale, reflecting our "overvalued" DCF assessment of the company, unattractive relative valuation versus peers, and bullish techinicals. We use Factset Research (NYSE:FDS), Moody's (NYSE:MCO), McGraw-Hill (MHP), and Thomson Reuters (NYSE:TRI) for our peer group analysis.

Our Report on Morningstar

In the spirit of transparency, our report on Morningstar and hundreds of other companies can be found here.

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Investment Considerations

Investment Highlights

Morningstar's 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.

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 $41. The market seems to be pricing greater long-term revenue growth and profit expansion than we think is achievable.

We don't think the mutual-fund company's valuation indicates an attractive investment opportunity at this time, and we are not considering opening up a position of the firm in the portfolio of our Best Ideas Newsletter.

Morningstar 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 18.6% in coming years, and the firm had no debt as of last quarter.

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.

The firm experienced a revenue CAGR of about 7.9% during the past three years. We expect its revenue growth to be better than 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 (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. Morningstar's three-year historical return on invested capital (without goodwill) is 94.5%, which is above the estimate of its cost of capital of 10.8%. 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. Morningstar's free cash flow margin has averaged about 19.8% 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 Morningstar, cash flow from operations increased about 72% from levels registered two years ago, while capital expenditures expanded about 89% over the same time period.

Valuation Analysis

The estimated fair value of $51 per share represents a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of about 26.4 times last year's earnings and an implied EV/EBITDA multiple of about 11.7 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 three-year historical compound annual growth rate of 7.9%. Our model reflects a five-year projected average operating margin of 26.2%, which is above Morningstar's trailing three-year average. Beyond year five, we assume free cash flow will grow at an annual rate of 5.2% for the next 15 years and 3% in perpetuity. For Morningstar, 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 $51 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 Morningstar. We think the firm is attractive below $41 per share (the green line), but quite expensive above $61 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 Morningstar's fair value at this point in time to be about $51 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 Morningstar'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 three 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 $68 per share in year three represents our existing fair value per share of $51 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.