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Valuation Methods

This addendum to Demonstrate Your Investment Potential is intended to provide additional theory and background information on valuation. This material is presented as a discussion of basic valuation principles and concepts as well as discussion of the various methodologies and approaches used in the valuation of the common shares of a private company.

The addendum will describe the following:

  • Fundamental Principles of Valuation;
  • Valuation Concepts
    • tangible asset backing
    • goodwill;
  • Fair Market Value; and
  • Valuation Methodologies and Approaches.

This material is presented on the assumption that you will be assisted by a professional financial advisor. It focuses on fundamental valuation principals and various valuation methodologies.

Fundamental Principals of Valuation

There are a number of principals of business valuation which apply when a transaction is contemplated:

  • value is relative to future expectations;
  • the value of an asset is a function of its future cash flow; and
  • a higher tangible asset backing supports a higher going concern value.

Value is Relative to Future Expectations

Value is based on future expectations if the potential investor does not have access to historical cash flows. The return on investment (i.e., the investment being the purchase price) an investor will receive is wholly dependent on the future benefits received from the acquisition. While past earnings may indicate future earnings potential, they do not guarantee future earnings and should not be the only source of information used to predict a company's future cash flow.

Value is Relative to Future Cash Flow

The benefit an investor will receive from an acquisition is typically measured in terms of cash flow. While several benefits may not directly pertain to cash flow, typically they can be assessed by converting these amounts to cash equivalents.

A Higher Tangible Asset Backing Supports a Higher Going Concern Value

The tangible asset backing of the company is calculated as the difference between the fair market value of all tangible and identifiable intangible assets. The value of intangible assets and the fair market value of the company's liabilities can be determined separately. Tangible assets represent the assets required in operations such as fixed assets and working capital net of operating liabilities such as bank debt. Identifiable intangible assets are assets such as patents, trademarks and licences. Tangible asset backing is determined based on a going concern assumption. This means the estimated value of net assets should be determined based on the assumption of continued use and would, therefore, include installation costs but not taxes or other costs which would result from disposition of the net assets. Therefore, contingent liabilities and cost of disposition (e.g., recapture, capital gains tax, sales commissions, etc.) are specifically excluded.

Tangible asset backing provides insight into the risk associated with the particular investment because, in a worst case scenario, the net tangible assets of the company could be sold. The proceeds realized could then be used to relieve the liabilities of the company and recoup shareholder investment. The tangible asset backing also provides an indication of the capital investment required to enter the market. In this case, the tangible asset backing provides an indication of the potential financial barrier to entry for new competitors.


Bob and Doug McKenzie were brothers who owned identical manufacturing businesses. The companies were identical in all respects except Bob's company owned its manufacturing equipment while Doug's company leased its equipment. Doug completed a sale and lease back of the equipment in 1996 with the funds generated on the transaction paid to Doug as a dividend used to finance his personal acquisition of a very expensive sports car. Both Bob and Doug decided to expand operations to take advantage of the increasing demand for their products. Operations required an additional $500,000 to finance new product development. At dinner one evening, Doug stated that investors considered his company to be high risk due to the lack of supporting assets. Investors told Doug if results did not unfold as expected, they could lose all of their investment due to the company's lack of assets. On the other hand, the investors approached by Bob believed his company to be low risk. They said even in the worst case of business failure, proceeds from the sale of the company's underlying net assets would repay most of their investment. Not surprisingly, Bob received financing while Doug did not.

Valuation Concepts

Tangible Asset Backing

As stated previously, the tangible asset backing is the fair market value of all operating assets less all operating liabilities. Most of the information gathered to calculate the liquidation value is also necessary to calculate the tangible asset backing.

Tangible asset backing differs from liquidation value in three ways.

  • Tangible asset backing often reflects fixed assets at their value in use (depreciated replacement value or realizable value plus installation costs), while liquidation value often reflects fixed assets at fair market value (net realizable value).
  • Tangible asset backing excludes redundant assets (it relates only to net operating assets).
  • Tangible asset backing does not include liquidation costs and taxes.


The tangible asset backing must be known before goodwill can be determined. The formula for calculating the value of goodwill is:


Value of Goodwill
Going concern value of operations -
Tangible asset backing


Where the analysis is based on an assessment of the company's cash flow (i.e., based on the assumption the company is a going concern), the calculated fair market value of the company will typically exceed the fair market value of its underlying net assets. The excess value is referred to as goodwill. Goodwill is an intangible asset and represents the incremental benefit accruing from a successful assemblage of assets.

Goodwill is a valid inclusion in the value analysis to the extent it possesses the following attributes:

  • goodwill must be of an enduring nature;
  • goodwill is attributable to cash flows expected from future business activity; and
  • goodwill must have commercial value (i.e., must be transferable to a third party).

While goodwill is an intangible asset, a basis for goodwill can often be attributed to one or more factors particular to the company. In general, goodwill can be derived from one or more of the following:

based on the notion that a company's success is, to some extent, based on the physical location of the premises;
where a particular product/service offered by the company has developed name brand recognition/reputation in the market place, the favourable attitude of consumers often results in incremental cash flow to the company; and
a company which has fostered a superior working relationship with its employees and lenders, investors, suppliers and customers, or has assembled a superior management team, etc. is at a competitive advantage vis-à-vis other companies in the industry. This competitive advantage often results in incremental cash flow to the company.

In general, goodwill is classified as commercial or personal.

Commercial Goodwill
Commercial goodwill refers to goodwill which is sellable and which will provide the investor/purchaser with future economic benefits (measured in terms of cash flow). Since the economic benefit supporting the calculation of commercial goodwill is transferable to third parties, commercial goodwill is a valid consideration in the determination of value.
Personal Goodwill
Personal goodwill pertains to the favorable attitudes of customers, suppliers, etc., which are derived from the efforts of a particular individual in the business. In many cases, personal goodwill can be transferred to a potential purchaser through client introductions, and so on. This is a common operating model for the sale of service businesses, including medical practices and accounting practices. In some cases, goodwill associated with a particular individual may also be secured using non-compete contracts, management contracts or other prudent business arrangements. In these cases, personal goodwill may be a valid inclusion in the value determination.

Fair Market Value

In a transaction-oriented valuation, the determination of fair market value is the first step in the pricing process. After fair market value is determined, adjustments are made to reflect the potential benefits realized by the seller and each prospective investor or purchaser.

Definition of Fair Market Value

There is general consensus on the underlying attributes of the definition of Fair Market Value. In general, Fair Market Value can be defined as:


...the highest price available, expressed in terms of money or money's worth, in an open and unrestricted market between informed, prudent parties acting at arm's length and under no compulsion to transact.


Valuation Methodologies and Approaches

There are two main approaches to the determination of value: the empirical approach and the investment approach. The empirical approach suggests that value is best determined by reference to open market transactions involving similar companies. Value can be determined by referring to value relationship implied in the stock price of similar publicly traded companies.

The main advantage of the empirical approach is that it uses information directly from the market. Therefore, more economic factors are considered. In most cases, the empirical approach should not be used as the primary valuation approach in Canada. In the United States, the empirical approach is more widely used. The differences are due to the relatively small number of companies in Canada, the lack of publicly available information, and differences between an investment in a publicly traded company and a privately held business. In addition, an investment in a publicly traded company typically has greater liquidity than an investment in a privately held company. If the company is not truly comparable, how would you adjust the purchase price to derive a meaningful value relationship which can be applied to determine the value of your company? Instead, the empirical approach should be used as a secondary technique to test the reasonableness of conclusions reached through the investment approach.

Information related to transactions involving companies which may be somewhat comparable to your company can be obtained from the following sources:

  • Mergers and Acquisitions Digest;
  • Mergers and Acquisitions in Canada published by Crosbie and Company;
  • Brokerage reports issued by securities firms;
  • Industry and association publications; and
  • Newspaper and financial magazine articles.

The investment approach suggests value should be determined by reference to a detailed investment analysis using the techniques of financial statement analysis and risk measurement theory. The investment approach is used by sophisticated buyers and sellers in open market transactions.

There are two basic approaches to valuing a business: earnings/cash flow-based approaches, and asset-based approaches. The use of a specific approach is generally determined by the operations of a business and whether or not it is a going concern.

Going Concern Analysis

The assessment of fair market value begins with the determination of the economic viability of the company. Economic viability can be assessed by determining if the company has realized a reasonable return on investment in the past. This assessment is based on the inherent risk associated with the industry and the particular company. Economic viability should also be based on whether a reasonable rate of return is expected in the foreseeable future. Consider the circumstance where a company is earning a fair return on employed capital (i.e., the return to owners resulting from continued operation is expected to exceed the proceeds which would be received on the liquidation of the net assets). In this case, fair market value can be determined using one of several methodologies based on future expected cash flows. In some cases, this will be based on the fair market value of the underlying employed assets.

Now, consider the case where a company is not earning a fair return on capital employed. The prospects for earning a fair return in the foreseeable future are remote. Fair market value will now be based on the liquidated value of the company's net assets, based on the assumption this value will exceed the value calculated on a going concern basis (i.e., based on cash flow). The liquidation approach to value focuses on a determination of the net realizable value of the company's net assets and, therefore, includes costs associated with winding up the company (e.g., latent tax costs, sales commissions, severance packages, etc.). Assuming entrepreneurs would not seek investment capital for a business which should be wound up, the information as set out in this course will concentrate on going concern methodologies. A description of the liquidation approach and examples of its application can be found in the Canada Valuation Service published by DeBoo.

Asset-Based Approach

An asset-based approach is appropriate under the going concern assumption where the underlying value of the company relates to its assets (as opposed to operating cash flow). An example of this type of company would be a real estate holding company, which not only derives cash flow from rents, etc., but also realizes value from capital appreciation of the buildings it owns. The asset based approach requires the calculation of the fair market value of the company's individual assets and liabilities. Fair market value of the company is calculated as follows:


Fair market value of the company
= Fair market value of the assets
Fair market value of the liabilities


Capitalization of Earnings Method

The capitalization of earnings method is based on a simple premise. The future benefits derived from the acquisition of a particular company can be measured based on the after-tax maintainable earnings expected to be realized by the company in the future. Maintainable earnings represent the average level of earnings expected to be achieved in the future. This approach is appropriate in circumstances where the future financial performance of the company is expected to be relatively stable and can therefore be estimated by a single earnings figure. The capitalized earnings approach assumes the earnings are distributed to the shareholders each year (not reinvested in the business).

The following general formula calculates the fair market value of all issued and outstanding shares of the company:


Maintainable after-tax earnings from operations
Going concern value of the operations
Non-operating/redundant assets
Fair market value of the shares


Note: This formula may require modification depending on your circumstances.

Assessment of Indicated Value

To assess the reasonableness of the calculated fair market value using the above methodology, a common approach is to calculate the number of years of after-tax maintainable earnings that will be required to pay back the indicated value of goodwill. Goodwill pay back is a relevant consideration since goodwill represents an intangible asset which would not be recoverable in the worst case scenario where the purchaser has to wind up the company's operations. Therefore, the purchase price pertaining to goodwill represents a higher risk than the purchase price pertaining to fixed assets and other tangible assets. The following is a general formula:


Going concern value of the operations (i.e., fair market value)
Tangible asset backing
Annual future maintainable earnings from operations
Number of years of earnings in goodwill


The "number of years of earnings in goodwill" calculation is then assessed relative to the nature of the business. In certain industries (e.g., pharmaceuticals), a high degree of goodwill may be evident given the relatively low tangible asset backing typical in this industry. However, in other cases, the calculated amount may indicate an unusually high value in which case the value calculations/assumptions employed in the analysis should be revisited. The calculated "number of years of earnings in goodwill" can also be viewed in relation to the general business risk in the industry.

Calculation of Maintainable After-Tax Earnings

The maintainable after-tax earnings is determined as follows.

  • Assess historical pre-tax earnings realized by the company. Depending on the circumstances, the number of years to review will vary. However, as a general rule, five years of historical results is a useful benchmark. Clearly, this analysis will not be available if the company is in the start-up phase.
  • The review of historical information is only useful to the extent it provides insight into the expected future financial performance. Therefore, consider whether or not each of the historical years is relevant to determine future maintainable earnings. This analysis may be influenced by the stage the business is in (e.g., start up) and the industry in which it operates (e.g., cyclical industries such as real estate). The years prior to a change in operations may not be relevant if the change did not have a material impact on profitability.

Past earnings are only a guide to determining future maintainable earnings. View them in combination with earnings projections to achieve optimal results.

  • Historical financial results and those projected for the future of the company may include unusual and non-recurring expenses. These should be excluded for purposes of determining annual future maintainable earnings. Examples of such items include one-time fees, start-up costs or property damage relating to floods/fires, etc. Adjustments should also be made for revenue and expense amounts which do not reflect fair market value. Examples of such expenditures would include favourable terms provided or given to a non-arm's length party and other items which, although they provide economic benefit, will not be available indefinitely in the future. Examples of such items include salaries paid to relatives, guaranteed supply contracts from related parties at favourable prices, etc. Furthermore, historical results may be adjusted to reflect the inflationary effects between the date the financial results were reported and the valuation date.
  • Determine the future maintainable pre-tax earnings based on past and projected adjusted earnings. A simple average or weighted average can be used to determine the maintainable pre-tax earnings based on the use of judgment after analysing earning trends and future expectations. In some situations, the most current year, or forecast earnings, may be the most appropriate indicator of future maintainable pre-tax earnings. The ultimate objective of this analysis is to project the annual earnings which probably will be realized by the company in the future.
  • Apply the appropriate tax rate to determine the after-tax maintainable earnings.


The following is an example of the determination of maintainable after-tax earnings.

Historic Financial Information
Year 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996






Other Information

  • The president used to pay his wife a salary of $20,000 per year, although she performed no corporate function. This practice was stopped in 1999.
  • Pre-tax income for 1999 included a severance payment of $30,000. Further severance payments are not anticipated.
  • The income tax rate is 40%.
  • In 1996 and 1997, the company's primary competitor was experiencing labour problems. Labour relations are now excellent and no further work stoppages are expected.
  • No forecast has been prepared for 2001, but management does not anticipate significant growth in sales.


Determination of Maintainable After-Tax Earnings
  2000 1999 1998 1997 1996

Reported pre-tax income






Add back:

Wife's salary





Severance payment



Total adjustments






Adjust pre-tax income






Weighting factor






Average $335,000

Weighted average



Maintainable pre-tax earnings





Income tax @ 40%





Maintainable after-tax earnings





Rounding off to -






  • The president's wife's salary and severance payment are considered non-recurring and have been added back to reported income.
  • Results for 1996 and 1997 have been weighted less heavily due to the belief that labour problems at the main competitor during 1996 and 1997 make these results less representative of future earnings.
  • 2000 results weighted most heavily due to recency.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Earnings Method

  • It has greater acceptance and is better understood than cash flow methods.
  • It is easier to obtain information on comparable earnings multiples than for cash flow multiples.
  • Earnings do not reflect the actual benefits to the owners (i.e., cash flow).
  • Net income often fluctuates significantly from the indicated cash flow amounts due to such items as depreciation expense and other non-cash expenses.
  • Depreciation, particularly in inflationary environments, is an inadequate measure of the asset's usage.

Cash Flow-Based Approaches

In general, cash flow-based approaches are the preferred methodology where the company is viewed as a going concern. In general, there are two cash flow-based methodologies - the capitalized cash flow approach and the discounted cash flow approach.

Capitalized Cash Flow Approach

The capitalized cash flow is similar to the capitalized earnings approach, except it capitalizes cash flows as opposed to earnings.

The capitalized cash flow approach is a more precise methodology than the earnings approach, particularly in cases where the company is capital-intensive, and depreciation and other accounting estimates may not accurately reflect cash flow expenditures.

Capitalized Cash Flow Formula

The following formula calculates the fair market value of all issued and outstanding shares of the company:


Maintainable net income before tax
Non-cash expenses
Cash flow before taxes
Taxes based on cash flows
Sustaining capital reinvestment
Maintainable future cash flows
Capitalized cash flows
Going concern value of operations
Tax shield on available UCC
Non-operating/redundant assets
Fair market value of shares


This methodology is very similar to the capitalized earnings approach. The main difference is the substitution of estimated average sustaining capital reinvestment for depreciation.

The key components of this methodology are described below.

Maintainable Future Cash Flows
The adjustments made to normalize earnings also apply to this cash flows methodology. Non-cash items (e.g., depreciation) are added back to earnings to determine the company's cash flow.
Sustaining Capital Reinvestment
As indicated previously, the cash flow methodology requires an add back for non-cash items including depreciation. However, the company will incur capital expenditures on fixed assets necessary to maintain the viability of the company. To reflect this cash outflow, an estimate of the required sustaining capital reinvestment is made and deducted from the cash flow calculated above. Depending on the jurisdiction, these capital expenditures may have preferential tax treatment which should be reflected as a reduction to the expenditure on these items. While sustaining capital reinvestment may fluctuate from year to year, the capitalized cash flow methodology requires one estimate of the annual expenditures; it is assumed this expenditure will be incurred on an annual basis in perpetuity.
Tax Shield on Available Undepreciated Capital Cost
The income taxes calculated to arrive at maintainable future cash flow were based on cash flows without adjustment for the deductions available from existing undepreciated capital cost (UCC) balances (i.e., tax depreciation). Accordingly, the present value of the tax shield arising from the existence of available UCC must be added to the capitalized cash flow value prior to arriving at the fair market value of the shares.

The present value of the tax shelter provided by existing UCC balances can be calculated using the following formula:


UCC x Rate of income tax x Rate of capital allowance
Rate of return + Rate of capital cost allowance



In calculating the capitalized cash flow value, you have assembled the following information:




Rate of income tax


Rate of capital cost allowance


Rate of return



The present value of the tax shelter provided by existing UCC balances is approximately $64,000 calculated as follows:


250,000 x 45% x 20%
15% + 20%
= $64,285
say, $64,000


Strengths and Weaknesses of the Capitalized Cash Flow Approach

  • The capitalized cash flow approach is based on your company's cash flows and, therefore, is a more relevant analysis since potential purchasers assess the future expected cash flows (as opposed to earnings).
  • This methodology is more precise than the earnings methodology because cash flows pertaining to capital reinvestment are quantified. The earnings approach assumes depreciation is an appropriate estimate of the required capital reinvestment.
  • This methodology provides a better measurement of cash return on capital.
  • Annual fluctuations in cash flow are not considered.
  • Irregular required capital reinvestment is also not considered specifically.

Discounted Cash Flow Approach

The discounted cash flow (DCF) approach requires the projection of cash flows for a specified number of years in the future. The DCF then discounts these amounts by an appropriate discount rate (based on an assessment of the risk associated with realizing the projected future cash flows). Future cash flows are discounted to determine the value today of amounts which will be received at some point in the future. Discounting future cash flows recognizes that a dollar received today is worth more than a dollar received at some point in the future. A dollar received today can be invested, earn income and grow. Furthermore, a dollar received today has greater value. There is a risk a dollar received in the future will not be received. The dollar received today, by definition, does not have this risk of realization.

The DCF approach is based on a projection of the company's future cash flows. You should base projected future financial performance on an analysis of the economy in general, the industry in which the company operates and the particular attributes of the company itself.

In determining the number of years to project future cash flows (the projected period), an assessment of the reliability of the projections is performed. The projected period is limited to the period for which reliable projections are available. For years subsequent to the projected period, a maintainable annual cash flow is estimated and assumed to be realized on an annual basis in perpetuity. This annual amount is discounted back to the valuation date and is referred to as the residual value of the company.

The DCF methodology is generally viewed as the most accurate methodology in cases where a company is considered as a going concern and value is based on future cash flows. A benefit of this methodology is that it allows for annual fluctuations in cash flows which may occur in the future. In contrast, the capitalized cash flow methodology is based on an average cash flow to be received in perpetuity. In many cases, the future annual cash flows of a company are not expected to fluctuate significantly. The added level of precision offered by the DCF methodology may not be required. The DCF methodology does require a more in-depth analysis, and this level of precision may not be worthwhile in certain circumstances.

Discounted Cash Flow Formula

The DCF methodology is based on the following formula:

Step #1
Calculate units sold.
Step #2
Calculate gross revenues.
Step #3
Calculate gross margin.
Step #4
Deduct cash outlays per income statements.
Step #5
Deduct other future costs.

To Determine Net Operating Cash Flow

Step #6
Deduct income taxes at stipulated rate.

To Determine After-Tax Cash Flow

Step #7
Deduct capital expenditures (net of tax benefits).
Step #8
Deduct working capital requirements.

To Determine Net Cash Flow in Each Year

Step #9
Apply discount factor to each year of projected cash flows and a multiple to the last year of projected cash flow which is then discounted to the valuation date.
Step #10
Add redundant assets.

Components of the Discounted Cash Flow Formula

Projected cash flow from operations

Projecting future financial performance is a speculative process which becomes less precise as the projection period is increased. In general, financial projections beyond a five year forecast period are not typically used in the DCF methodology. However, the projection period will depend to a large degree on the industry in which the company operates and the ability to develop reliable projections. For example, in a regulated industry such as utilities, cash flow may be accurately projected for up to 10 years or more. Financial projections can include consideration of inflation or can be stated in constant dollars (i.e., excluding inflation). The methodology employed in either case should be clearly stated and will have a significant impact on the discount rate which is described below.

Working capital changes

Working capital is defined as the current assets less current liabilities of the company. The analysis should include a determination of additional investments required in working capital because the DCF methodology permits cash flows to be estimated on a year by year basis during the projected period. As a company continues to grow, it will be required to reinvest some of the cash flow in current assets such as inventory and a larger accounts receivable balance. Part of these investments can be funded through increased debt (e.g., accounts payable and operating loans). This represents a cash outflow, to the extent cash flow generated by the business is used for this purpose. You should then reduce the projected cash flows of the company accordingly.

Capital additions

As previously discussed, capital additions may be required to maintain the ongoing viability of the company. To the extent capital acquisitions are required, these expenditures should be reflected as deductions to the company's cash flow in the year in which you expect to incur them. In certain circumstances, capital additions may have a beneficial tax advantage which will reduce the ultimate taxes payable by the company. In such circumstances, this tax benefit should also be reflected in the cash flows as a reduction to the taxes payable.

Debt Repayments

Debt principal payments are a cash outflow to the company. However, principal repayments are typically excluded from the DCF valuation. This deduction is based on the assumption the principal repayment can be replaced by new debt. Therefore, the net effect on cash flows is nil.

Taxes Payable

Income taxes are applied to the cash flows based on the prevailing income tax rates. This analysis is based on the assumption income tax rates will continue into the future. If the government announces income tax changes which will affect the future taxes payable in a given year, you should reflect these adjustments in the cash flows in that particular year.

Discount Rate

The discount rate is similar to the capitalization multiple discussed in the capitalized cash flow methodology described above. In essence, the discount factor recognizes the fact that a dollar received today is worth more than a dollar received a year from now. A dollar received today can be invested, earn interest and grow. Therefore, a dollar received in the future must be discounted (i.e., reduced) to reflect its value today. The determination of the appropriate discount rate (and capitalization rate) are discussed in a later section.

Redundant Assets

In many circumstances, a company will accumulate various assets which are not essential to the ongoing operations of the core business. For example, successful corporations may have large cash balances or investments in marketable securities. In most circumstances, these assets can be removed from the company without adversely affecting the operations of the business. These assets are commonly referred to as redundant assets.

How do you determine the fair market value using a cash flow approach? The cash flows of the company will exclude consideration of any income/expenses earned on these redundant assets. Therefore, you must then adjust the calculated fair market value based on cash flow to reflect the value of these redundant assets which have been assumed to be removed from the company. The fair market value of a redundant asset should reflect the fair market value of the asset less any costs associated with removing it from the corporation. For example, cash is easily valued and removed from the corporation so that the fair market value may be the face value reported in the company's financial statements. However, marketable securities are typically recorded at historical costs and there may have been a significant fluctuation in the value of these investments. The fair market value of the marketable securities should reflect the current market value less any costs of disposition (i.e., sales commissions, etc.).

You should be cautious to ensure the assets which appear to be redundant are in fact not necessary for the operations of the business. For example, large cash balances may be required by the business if the business is seasonal and the large cash balance has been set aside to invest in inventory. Furthermore, marketable securities and other investments may be required due to debt covenants, etc.

Hidden Redundant Assets

A review of the company's balance sheet may indicate a hidden redundant asset if the company does not fully use available financial leverage. Many companies operate with a very low level of debt financing. Basic valuation principals assert that due to tax benefits being afforded interest expense, it is advantageous to introduce some level of debt financing into a company's operations. By doing this, the fair market value of the company will be maximized. If a company does not have debt financing, you should adjust the cash flows and balance sheet to reflect the appropriate level of imputed debt financing. The net effect is to reduce the cash flows by the imputed interest expense and to introduce additional cash available for distribution to the balance sheet. The amount borrowed (imputed) is treated as a redundant asset. Therefore, it is added to the fair market value calculated based on a cash flow methodology.

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Discounted Cash Flow Approach

  • This method focuses solely on the future (see principles of valuation).
  • It takes into account fluctuations in annual cash flows.
  • It offers the highest level of precision.
  • This method is generally not well understood and is more difficult to apply than other methods.

Multipliers, Capitalization Rates and Discount Rates

The selection of a discount rate is required to calculate the risk adjusted present value of expected future cash flows of your company. The rate selected is based on an assessment of general and prevailing economic market conditions, trends and conditions within the industry, the financial condition and prospects of the company, and the overall risk attached to the cash flow of the business.

In this regard, the discount rate is composed of the following:

  • risk free rate of return;
  • risk associated with equity investments;
  • risk associated with the industry in particular; and
  • risk associated with the company in particular.

In general, a premium is added to the risk free rate of return to reflect an investor's required rate of return from that investment. The investor's required rate of return is based on the perceived risk of realizing the projected cash flows and the security of the investment.

The risk free rate of return can be estimated by long-term government bonds based on the assumption the risk of default is virtually nil. This risk free rate of return has two components:

  • a real rate of return (excluding inflation); and
  • an inflation premium to reflect future expectations concerning changes in prices.

If the market anticipates increases in future inflation, the risk free rate of return would increase accordingly. Investors view investments in companies as longer term. You should then base the risk free rate on long-term government bonds. The rate of return on these instruments represent the market's expectation regarding long-term inflation.

An equity risk premium is the premium return an investor in equities will require over and above the rate of return which that investor would realize from a risk free investment. The equity risk premium is typically determined relative to historical market return relationships. Recent studies indicate after-tax equity risk premiums are generally in the range of 4% to 5%.

After determining the required rate of return on equity investments in general, the analysis then focuses on the risk pertaining to the industry in which the company operates. The analysis also focuses on the risk associated with realizing the cash flows of the company in particular. In general, this is a qualitative analysis and the specific considerations will depend on the specific circumstances of the case under review. In general, the analysis may consider the following:

Size of the business
generally, larger businesses will have lower business risk since they are more diversified and well established in the marketplace.
Economic considerations
uncertainty regarding the market in which the company operates will lead to higher business risk and increase the risk the investor will not realize the projected cash flows.
Earnings trends
as previously indicated, historical earnings can provide an indication of future financial performance. However, the value determination will be based on an assessment of future financial performance. To the extent financial projections are speculative, the risk of realizing future cash flows is increased. The relative risk associated with financial projections will depend on the company and the industry in which it operates.
Industry assessment
companies operating in high technology industries or other industries with significant and rapid changes in products/services are more vulnerable to downturn, and therefore, the investor faces an increased risk the company will not attain future financial performance. However, these industries also represent opportunity since market leaders can significantly outperform companies is more stable industries.

In general, the financial projections should reflect the best estimate of future financial performance. The discount rate can then be adjusted to reflect qualitative factors (in addition to the risk free rate of return) - an equity risk premium. An example of the qualitative analysis used to determine the premium over the return on equity investments is provided here.

  Positive Negative

1.The company was entering a period marked by several new product introductions and significant growth opportunities.


2.The financial forecasts predict significant growth in cash flows.


3.The financial forecasts do not reflect additional opportunities the company may realize, which have not been specifically identified.


4.Many of the company's product lines have relatively small sales volumes and may not attract competition.


5.The company is projecting an increased diversification of its product line, reducing its reliance on its current product line.


6.The company has a low tangible asset backing, which is not uncharacteristic of companies operating in the industry.


7.There is a trend toward increasing price sensitivity among customers.


8.The general outlook for the industry is relatively positive.


9.The company has exhibited a willingness and desire to undertake research and development, a critical success factor in the industry.


10.The industry is fragmented with no dominant competitors (in terms of market share).


11.Product introduction can be delayed due to government regulation, etc.


12.Given the nature of the industry, it is difficult to assess comparable transactions.


13.Corporate management has exhibited the ability to adapt to change, and there appears to be no dependence on one or two key individuals.


14.There are significant barriers to entry in the marketplace.


This required rate of return should be consistent with the cash flow forecast in terms of inflation — both should either include or exclude inflation.

Investor Rates of Return

The investor will want to ensure the project or business will provide a sufficiently high level of return on investment to compensate for the perceived risk the investor will assume. The required rate of return will vary greatly depending on the nature of the opportunity and on the structure of the investment (i.e., debt or equity). The higher an investor perceives the risk to be, the higher the rate of return the investor will require. Your investor may be looking for a rate of return of 15% to 25% on a subordinated debt instrument and as much as 25% to 40% on an equity investment. These high rates of return are driven by the substantial risks associated with private equity investment. These risks include high rates of business failure, long periods of time before capital is returned to the investor, the investor's likely inability to control or influence the operations of the company, and the general lack of liquidity associated with an investment in a privately held company.

Rules of Thumb

Closely related to the "comparable transaction" methodology is an analysis involving rules of thumb in the industry. Rules of thumb pertain to quick and general analyses which apply a basic multiple to a measure of cash flows or asset values. For example, a general valuation rule of thumb within the industry may be a multiple of revenues, multiple of the number of repeat customers, gross margin or book value. In general, rules of thumb are not a primary valuation technique but can provide useful insight into how the industry views a particular company. In this case, it can provide a useful reasonableness check on the value determined using a primary valuation technique. The analysis is further complicated by the fact that rules of thumb are not regularly adjusted to reflect the fluid nature of value (recall that value reflects a particular point in time). Furthermore, rules of thumb do not provide insight into the specific characteristics of a particular company, and therefore, should be considered general estimates only.


Source: Industry Canada


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