Enterprise Value: The Price of a Business via CSInvesting

This will be the first in a series of educational pieces on analyzing businesses. The purpose is for the reader to then apply the concepts and principles to his or her own investing. Begin and end with common sense—apply these concepts intelligently and don’t take these words as gospel. Intelligent investing requires you to think for yourself. Hopefully, these lessons will give you the tools to search, analyze and invest with a margin of safety. Never cease to do your own thinking. Our goal should be to become the best investors each of us can become rather than wannabes and mimics of great investors though that is how most of us begin our journey.

Warren E. Buffett (“WEB”) said there were only two things he would teach in his investing course:

1. How to think about prices.

2. How to value a business.

Ben Graham says investing is most intelligent when it is most business-like, so we will focus on analyzing businesses not stocks. If you want more encouragement for taking a business-like approach to investing, listen to what Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger said in the 1984 Berkshire Annual Report, “As you know, we buy marketable securities for our insurance companies based upon the criteria we would apply in the purchase of an entire business. This business-valuation approach is not widespread among professional money managers and is scorned by many academics. Nevertheless, it has served its followers well (to which academics seem to say, “Well, it may be all right in practice, but it will never work in theory.”) Simply put, we feel that if we can buy small pieces of businesses with satisfactory underlying economics at a fraction of the per-share value of the entire business, something good is likely to happen to us–particularly if we own a group of such securities.”

Enterprise Value (“EV”)

So this lesson will be on: How do we determine the market price of a business? All the market price tells an investor is what he or she can buy or sell a share of stock (a piece of the business) for. The market price does not tell the investor whether that is a good or bad purchase or sale. Price is what you pay and value is what you get.

We will move from the simple to the more detailed and complex application of concepts while discussing the strengths and pitfalls of applying these principles. Common sense and experience will show you when the details are material. An analyst must acquire complete and accurate data before he or she can begin an analysis, but placing that information and analysis into context will be critical to success.

To figure out the market price of a business we calculate Enterprise Value (“EV”) and EBIT/EV yield not Market Capitalization and Earnings/Price yield. “EBIT” is the acronym for earnings before interest and taxes or pre-tax operating earnings. EV/EBIT is frequently used in industries where capital expenditures are typically for maintenance purposes and close to depreciation and amortization expenses. Assume for discussion purposes that “EBIT” is equal to “EBITDA minus maintenance capital expenditures (“MCX”) or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization minus maintenance capital expenditures. A mouthful!

Owner earnings

EBITDA – MCX is a pre-tax measure of “owner earnings” as described by Warren Buffett. This is the level of earnings which can be maintained on a steady, non-growth basis, after expenditures have been made to maintain the company’s plant and equipment as well as its competitive position.

Warren Buffett has referred to the ‘owner earnings’ of a company as the true measure of earnings. He has defined ‘owner earnings’ as:

Reported earnings + depreciation, amortization, other non-cash items – average annual amount of capitalized spending on plant, machinery, equipment.

Depreciation is

You should not consider depreciation because this is generally a fixed percentage of an amount spent in the past that does not necessarily reflect the true cost of replacing things when they are obsolete or …..(inflation caused under-depreciation—example.).

Amortization

Buffett has often criticized accounting amortization of economic goodwill. Economic goodwill, including brand name, reputation, monopolistic or market dominance, might actually increase in value rather than depreciate. (Sees’ Candies, for example)

Determining maintenance capital expenditures

It is difficult to estimate true capital spending. Items may be deferred or brought forward. Averaging actual maintenance capex (separated from growth capex) is a more reliable guide of a company’s true capital needs.

How would you figure out what true maintenance capex would be?

Maintenance Capex is the level of capex necessary to maintain the current level of sales and profits. Look at PPE/Sales ratio as another method to separate maintenance from growth capex. Companies generally report capital expenditures in their statement of cash flows. We assume that each year, a part of this outlay supports the business at its sales level for the prior year, and part is needed for whatever increase in sales it has achieved. Companies generally have a stable relationship between the level of sales and the amount of PPE, net of depreciation, that they report. We calculate the ratio of PPE to sales for each of the five prior years and find the average. We use this to indicate the dollars of PPE it takes to support each dollar of sales. We then multiply this ratio by the growth (or decrease) in sales dollars the company has achieved in the current year. The result of that calculation is growth capex. We then subtract it from total capex to arrive at maintenance capex. (Source: Value Investing by Greenwald).

Maintenance capex (MCX) is what it would take to keep earnings the same amount in the year you are looking at. What this says, don’t fool yourself into thinking you have a better business than you think you have.

For example, the company Six Flag has rides (Ferris Wheels, etc.): Six Flags will deduct expenses for maintaining the Ferris-Wheel like repainting, replacing equipment, but to remain competitive and attract customers at the same rate, you have to replace the ride every 10 years. But here in this competitive situation, the management has to add two rides every year or else they will have declining revenues.

Enterprise Value

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