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Is Intuitive Surgical, Inc. (NASDAQ:ISRG) Worth US$528 Based On Its Intrinsic Value?

Simply Wall St

How far off is Intuitive Surgical, Inc. ( NASDAQ:ISRG ) from its intrinsic value? Using the most recent financial data, we'll take a look at whether the stock is fairly priced by projecting its future cash flows and then discounting them to today's value. This is done using the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. Don't get put off by the jargon, the math behind it is actually quite straightforward.

Companies can be valued in a lot of ways, so we would point out that a DCF is not perfect for every situation. If you want to learn more about discounted cash flow, the rationale behind this calculation can be read in detail in the Simply Wall St analysis model .

See our latest analysis for Intuitive Surgical

Crunching the numbers

We're using the 2-stage growth model, which simply means we take in account two stages of company's growth. In the initial period the company may have a higher growth rate and the second stage is usually assumed to have a stable growth rate. To start off with, we need to estimate the next ten years of cash flows. Where possible we use analyst estimates, but when these aren't available we extrapolate the previous free cash flow (FCF) from the last estimate or reported value. We assume companies with shrinking free cash flow are will slow their rate of shrinkage, and that companies with growing free cash flow will see their growth rate slow, over this period. We do this to reflect that growth tends to slow more in the early years than it does in later years.

A DCF is all about the idea that a dollar in the future is less valuable than a dollar today, and so the sum of these future cash flows is then discounted to today's value:

10-year free cash flow (FCF) estimate

2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028
Levered FCF ($, Millions) US$1.1k US$1.4k US$2.1k US$2.5k US$2.9k US$3.1k US$3.4k US$3.6k US$3.8k US$3.9k
Growth Rate Estimate Source Analyst x2 Analyst x3 Analyst x1 Analyst x1 Analyst x1 Est @ 9.82% Est @ 7.69% Est @ 6.2% Est @ 5.16% Est @ 4.43%
Present Value ($, Millions) Discounted @ 8.42% US$1.0k US$1.2k US$1.7k US$1.8k US$1.9k US$1.9k US$1.9k US$1.9k US$1.8k US$1.8k

Present Value of 10-year Cash Flow (PVCF) = $16.95b

"Est" = FCF growth rate estimated by Simply Wall St

We now need to calculate the Terminal Value, which accounts for all the future cash flows after this ten year period. The Gordon Growth formula is used to calculate Terminal Value at a future annual growth rate equal to the 10-year government bond rate of 2.7%. We discount the terminal cash flows to today's value at a cost of equity of 8.4%.

Terminal Value (TV) = FCF 2029 × (1 + g) ÷ (r – g) = US$3.9b × (1 + 2.7%) ÷ (8.4% – 2.7%) = US$71b

Present Value of Terminal Value (PVTV) = TV / (1 + r) 10 = $US$71b ÷ ( 1 + 8.4%) 10 = $31.71b

The total value, or equity value, is then the sum of the present value of the future cash flows, which in this case is $48.66b. In the final step we divide the equity value by the number of shares outstanding. This results in an intrinsic value estimate of $421.8 . Relative to the current share price of $528.06, the company appears slightly overvalued at the time of writing. Remember though, that this is just an approximate valuation, and like any complex formula - garbage in, garbage out.

NasdaqGS:ISRG Intrinsic value, April 19th 2019

The assumptions

We would point out that the most important inputs to a discounted cash flow are the discount rate and of course the actual cash flows. If you don't agree with these result, have a go at the calculation yourself and play with the assumptions. The DCF also does not consider the possible cyclicality of an industry, or a company's future capital requirements, so it does not give a full picture of a company's potential performance. Given that we are looking at Intuitive Surgical as potential shareholders, the cost of equity is used as the discount rate, rather than the cost of capital (or weighted average cost of capital, WACC) which accounts for debt. In this calculation we've used 8.4%, which is based on a levered beta of 0.955. Beta is a measure of a stock's volatility, compared to the market as a whole. We get our beta from the industry average beta of globally comparable companies, with an imposed limit between 0.8 and 2.0, which is a reasonable range for a stable business.

Next Steps:

Valuation is only one side of the coin in terms of building your investment thesis, and it shouldn’t be the only metric you look at when researching a company. The DCF model is not a perfect stock valuation tool. Rather it should be seen as a guide to "what assumptions need to be true for this stock to be under/overvalued?" If a company grows at a different rate, or if its cost of equity or risk free rate changes sharply, the output can look very different. What is the reason for the share price to differ from the intrinsic value? For Intuitive Surgical, I've put together three fundamental aspects you should further examine:

  1. Financial Health : Does ISRG have a healthy balance sheet? Take a look at our free balance sheet analysis with six simple checks on key factors like leverage and risk.
  2. Future Earnings : How does ISRG's growth rate compare to its peers and the wider market? Dig deeper into the analyst consensus number for the upcoming years by interacting with our free analyst growth expectation chart .
  3. Other High Quality Alternatives : Are there other high quality stocks you could be holding instead of ISRG? Explore our interactive list of high quality stocks to get an idea of what else is out there you may be missing!

PS. The Simply Wall St app conducts a discounted cash flow valuation for every stock on the NASDAQ every day. If you want to find the calculation for other stocks just search here .

We aim to bring you long-term focused research analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material.

If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com . This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.