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Glossary

Discounted Cash Flow

Discounted cash flow (DCF) serves as a financial approach to ascertain the current value of an anticipated series of future cash flows. It's employed to assess the value of obtaining a company, project, or asset, and aids in various business decisions, including establishing the necessary rate of return on investment prospects.

What is discounted cash flow?

Discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis is a financial method that utilizes the time value of money to estimate the present value of future cash flows. It acknowledges that a dollar received today is worth more than a dollar received in the future. DCF analysis aims to gauge the value of a business or investment by determining the present value of all future cash flows.

To perform this, you need to project cash flows for each future year and then reduce these cash flows to their present value. The discount rate is used to calculate the present value of cash flows, reflecting the investment's associated risk and the opportunity cost.

The most common approach to discounting cash flows involves using a discount rate, which combines the risk-free interest rate and a risk premium. The risk-free interest rate reflects the return from a risk-free investment, like a Treasury bill, while the risk premium compensates investors for taking on additional risk.

Alternatively, the discount rate may be based on a company's weighted average cost of capital (WACC), calculated by averaging the cost of debt and equity. The cost of debt is the interest rate paid by the company on its debt, while the cost of equity represents the return expected by investors for holding the company's stock.

Once you've projected cash flows and determined the discount rate, you can calculate the present value of these cash flows to estimate the value of the business or investment.

How do you calculate discounted cash flow?

Discounted cash flow (DCF) is a valuation technique employed to compute the present value of future cash flows. The initial step involves estimating cash flows for each period. This is done by projecting cash flows for each year and then discounting them back to the present using a discount rate, which accounts for cash flow risk and the time value of money.

After calculating the cash flow for each period, the present value of all the cash flows can be determined by summing the present value of each cash flow. This provides the total value of the cash flow stream. To determine the per-share value, divide the total value by the number of outstanding shares.

What does discounted cash flow tell you?

Discounted cash flow is a potent financial tool used by businesses and investors to gauge the present value of future cash flows. By discounting future cash flows at an appropriate rate, it provides insight into the value of an investment or project. A higher discount rate leads to a lower present value of cash flows, as it factors in the risk of not receiving these cash flows in the future.

Discounted cash flow takes into account the time value of money, recognizing that a dollar received today is more valuable than one received in the future, as money can be invested and generate interest. This method guides investment decisions, business valuation, and the assessment of potential returns on investments. It's also used to determine the fair value of a company's stock, making it a fundamental aspect of financial modeling.

What is the difference between net present value and discounted cash flow?

The difference between net present value (NPV) and discounted cash flow (DCF) lies in the direction of cash flow calculation. NPV assesses the present value of future cash flows, discounting them back to the present, while DCF calculates the future value of present cash flows, discounting them forward to the future.

To find the NPV of a series of cash flows, you'd use the following equation:

NPV = CF1 / (1+r) + CF2 / (1+r)^2 + CF3 / (1+r)^3 +

NPV calculates the present value of a series of cash flows, whereas DCF evaluates the future value of these cash flows.

What are other things you should know about discounted cash flow?

Discounted cash flow (DCF) is a valuation methodology used to determine the present value of future cash flows, crucial for financial analysts and investors assessing investments or businesses. Additional key points to note about DCF include:

  1. A solid grasp of time value of money principles is essential to effectively employ DCF.
  2. The central inputs for DCF analysis are projected cash flows and the discount rate.
  3. The discount rate should accurately reflect the risks tied to the discounted cash flows.
  4. Cash flow projections should be realistic and achievable.
  5. DCF analysis results should complement other valuation techniques in a comprehensive assessment.