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As part of our process, we perform a rigorous discounted cash-flow methodology that dives into the true intrinsic worth of companies. In Tenneco's (NYSE:TEN) case, we think the firm is ridiculously underpriced.

For some background, 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, which ranks stocks on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the best. We like firms that fall in the center of the diagram below:

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If a company is undervalued both on a DCF and on a relative valuation basis, it scores high on our scale. Tenneco posts a VBI score of 6 on our scale, reflecting our 'undervalued' DCF assessment of the firm and its attractive relative valuation versus peers. We compare Tenneco to peers Borg Warner (NYSE:BWA), Cooper Tire & Rubber (NYSE:CTB), Johnson Controls (NYSE:JCI), and Magna International (NYSE:MGA).

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

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Our Report on Tenneco

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Investment Considerations

Investment Highlights

• Although Tenneco has put up decent economic profits during the past few years, these returns have not come without volatility. Such business performance indicates heightened risk with respect to the firm's ability to continue to put up strong results

• Tenneco'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.

• Tenneco's cash flow generation and financial leverage are at decent levels, in our opinion. The firm's free cash flow margin and debt-to-EBITDA metrics are about what we'd expect from an average firm in our coverage universe.

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

• The firm's PEG ratio is not only below 1, but it also falls below the median of its peer group. This provides additional support for the firm's attractive valuation on a DCF basis.

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 (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. Tenneco's 3-year historical return on invested capital (without goodwill) is 12.3%, which is above the estimate of its cost of capital of 9.4%. As such, we assign the firm a ValueCreation™ rating of GOOD. In the chart to the right, 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. Tenneco's free cash flow margin has averaged about 1.4% 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 Tenneco, cash flow from operations increased about 2% from levels registered two years ago, while capital expenditures expanded about 81% over the same time period.

Valuation Analysis

The estimated fair value of $55 per share represents a price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of about 21.6 times last year's earnings and an implied EV/EBITDA multiple of about 7.5 times last year's EBITDA. Our model reflects a compound annual revenue growth rate of 7.8% during the next five years, a pace that is higher than the firm's 3-year historical compound annual growth rate of 6.8%. Our model reflects a 5-year projected average operating margin of 6.1%, which is above Tenneco's trailing 3-year average. Beyond year 5, we assume free cash flow will grow at an annual rate of 2.4% for the next 15 years and 3% in perpetuity. For Tenneco, we use a 9.4% weighted average cost of capital to discount future free cash flows.

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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 $55 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 above, we show this probable range of fair values for Tenneco. We think the firm is attractive below $33 per share (the green line), but quite expensive above $77 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 Tenneco's fair value at this point in time to be about $55 per share. As time passes, however, companies generate cash flow and pay out cash to shareholders in the form of dividends. The chart to the right compares the firm's current share price with the path of Tenneco'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 $79 per share in Year 3 represents our existing fair value per share of $55 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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Source: Why We Think Tenneco Is Cheap