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Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) - What Is, Models, and Examples

Valuing is critical in today's complicated and changing corporate world. Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) valuation is a tried-and-true strategy favored by financial experts and investors alike for determining the intrinsic value of a firm or investment. DCF valuation provides a rigorous methodology for evaluating the sustainability and acceptability of possible initiatives. It does this by meticulously reviewing an asset's expected cash flows and discounting them to their present value.

Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) valuation is a method used to estimate the value of an investment based on its future cash flows. This method is commonly used in finance and investment analysis to determine the attractiveness of an investment opportunity. This article will discuss Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) Valuation in detail and concepts like DCF examples, steps, and other attributes.

Table of Contents

What is Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) Valuation?

Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) valuation is a financial approach that analyzes predicted future cash flows to calculate the present value of an investment or a company. It considers the idea that the value of money obtained in the future is less than the value of money received today. This is due to the time value of money. DCF valuation entails forecasting cash flows over a given time period. It also involves, calculating a discount rate that represents the investment’s risk and necessary return, and discounting the predicted cash flows to their present value using the discount rate. 

Calculating the terminal value to capture the worth beyond the planned time is also part of the procedure. The sum of the current values of future cash flows and the terminal value offers an estimate of the intrinsic worth of the investment or firm. DCF valuation is frequently used in corporate valuation, investment research, and capital budgeting choices, but it is dependent on the accuracy of cash flow forecast assumptions and the choice of an appropriate discount rate.

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Why is DCF Important?

For the following numerous reasons, discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis is essential:

  • Intrinsic Value Estimation:
    DCF valuation is a systematic technique to estimate an investment’s or a company’s intrinsic value. DCF assists investors in determining the true value of an investment by taking into account predicted future cash flows and discounting them to their present value. It assists in avoiding overpaying for an item or underestimating its worth, resulting in better-informed investing decisions.
  • Time Value of Money:
    DCF acknowledges the time value of money, which is a basic idea in finance. Because of the prospective earning capability of that money when invested elsewhere, money acquired in the future is worth less than money obtained today.
  • Risk Assessment:
    DCF allows for the inclusion of risk in the valuation process. The discount rate employed in DCF indicates the needed rate of return, which accounts for the investment’s risk. By taking risk into account, DCF assists investors in determining the attractiveness of an investment in relation to its risk profile. This is especially important when comparing assets with varying risk levels.
  • Long-Term View:
    DCF promotes a long-term view of investment analysis. DCF encourages investors to analyze an investment’s sustainability and growth potential by predicting and evaluating cash flows over time. This is especially valuable when assessing companies or assets with long-term revenue streams or significant growth prospects.
  • Flexibility and Adaptability:
    DCF allows for the incorporation of different scenarios and assumptions into the valuation process. Investors may experiment with different cash flow predictions, discount rates, and other factors to see how they affect the projected value. Sensitivity analysis may be used to determine how changes in important assumptions affect value, allowing investors to make better judgments.
  • Alignment with Fundamental Analysis:
    DCF valuation is consistent with fundamental analysis, which focuses on determining an investment’s intrinsic worth based on its underlying economic features. DCF assists investors in assessing the underlying financial performance of an investment or a firm by analyzing cash flows. These flows take into account income, spending, capital expenditures, and other important aspects.
  • Decision-Making Tool:
    DCF provides a systematic and quantitative framework for investment decision-making. It assists investors in prioritizing investment possibilities by comparing the estimated intrinsic value to the current market price. If the projected value is higher than the market price, it indicates that the investment may be undervalued and possibly appealing. If the projected value is less than the market price, it suggests that the investment may be overpriced and should be handled with caution.

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DCF Valuation Models

Here are three popular DCF valuation models: 

DCF Valuation Models

Single-Period DCF Model

This model is appropriate for investments or businesses that have a limited and well-defined investment horizon, often up to one year. It assumes a single period of cash flows and uses an appropriate discount rate to reduce them to their present value. This methodology is simple and effective for assessing short-term initiatives or investments with a limited lifetime.

Multi-Period DCF Model

The multi-period DCF model is the most commonly used technique for evaluating investments or enterprises with a longer time horizon. It entails forecasting cash flows over many time periods, often five to ten years or more. Cash flows are estimated for each period and then discounted to their present value using a discount rate. A terminal value is also generated to capture the value beyond the projection period, often using the perpetuity growth approach. To get the estimated intrinsic value, add the present values of future cash flows and the terminal value.

Adjusted Present Value (APV) Model

The APV model is an alternative DCF technique that considers the influence of financing options, such as debt or equity financing, on the value of an investment. It recognizes that the capital structure chosen can impact the cash flows accessible to equity investors. The APV model consists of three steps: 

(1) Valuing the investment as if it were entirely equity-financed, 
(2) Computing the tax advantages from debt interest payments, and
(3) Modifying the value by adding the present value of the tax benefits and any additional financing-related cash flows. 

This approach gives a more thorough appraisal by taking into account the consequences of financing decisions.

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DCF Valuation Steps

We will now explore the intricate stages that enable valuation analysis to unlock its maximum effectiveness. Here are the steps: 

DCF Valuation Steps
  • Cash Flow Projection: This process involves estimating the investment’s or company’s projected cash flows over a certain time period, generally utilizing financial statements, market research, and industry analysis. Revenue, costs, taxes, and capital expenditures all contribute to cash flows.
  • Calculating the Discount Rate: The discount rate, also known as the needed rate of return, indicates the risk of the investment as well as the investor’s desired return. It is calculated by taking into account elements such as the risk-free rate, market risk premium, and systematic risk of the investment. The weighted average cost of capital (WACC) is the most commonly used technique for calculating the discount rate.
  • Discounting Cash Flows: Using the discount rate, each expected cash flow is discounted back to its present value. This is accomplished by dividing the cash flow by (1 + discount rate) raised to the power of the time period in question. Discounting compensates for the fact that future cash flows are worth less than the same amount received today by reflecting the time value of money.
  • Terminal Value Calculation: Because cash flow estimates are often generated for a short time period, a terminal value is computed to reflect the value beyond the projection period. The perpetual growth strategy, which assumes a constant growth rate for cash flows beyond the projection period, is the most frequent. Using the discount rate, the terminal value is discounted to its present value.
  • Summing Present Values: The DCF value is calculated by adding the present values of forecasted cash flows and the terminal value. This shows the investment’s or company’s estimated intrinsic worth. Summing entails adding the current values of all individual cash flows as well as the terminal value.
  • Sensitivity Analysis: Sensitivity analysis is used to analyze the impact of changes in key assumptions and variables on the DCF value. It aids in evaluating the valuation’s robustness by studying how changes in inputs, such as growth rates or discount rates, impact the projected value. Sensitivity analysis sheds light on the range of possible values and aids in understanding the amount of uncertainty associated with the estimate.

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Difference Between DCF and Relative Valuation

DCF ValuationRelative Valuation
It is frequently utilized in investment analysis and business appraisalCommonly used for asset pricing and benchmarking
Because of the emphasis on forecasts, it might be more subjectiveMarket mood and comparables may have an impact
Provides a long-term view of an asset’s valueProvides a relative assessment of the worth of an asset
A discount rate is used to indicate the needed rate of returnMultiples, such as the P/E ratio and the EV/EBITDA ratio are used
It takes into account the time worth of money as well as riskDoes not expressly take into account the time value of money
Future cash flow assumptions and predictions are requiredRelies on market-based data and comparable companies
Focuses on predicted financial flows and their discountingCommonly used for pricing and benchmarking assets

DCF Valuation Example

Here is an example showing the DCF Valuation of shares for your better understanding: 

  • Cash Flow Projections: Assume we are evaluating the stock of corporation ABC, a fictitious Indian corporation. We forecast the following yearly cash flows for the next five years: Year one: INR 10 crore, year two: INR 12 crore, year three: INR 15 crore, year four: INR 18 crore, and year five: INR 22 crore.
  • Calculating the Discount Rate: Assume a discount rate of 12% for this example to reflect the needed rate of return for an investment in Company ABC. This discount rate takes into account the risk of the company’s operations, industry, and market circumstances.
  • Discounting Cash Flows: Using a 12% discount rate, we reduce each expected cash flow to its present value. The present value of the Year 1 cash flow, for example, would be computed as INR 10 crore / (1 + 0.12) = INR 8.93 crore.
  • Calculating Terminal Value: Assume Company ABC has a terminal growth rate of 4%. We estimate the terminal value using the perpetual growth technique by dividing the Year 6 predicted cash flow (INR 22 crores) by the discount rate minus the growth rate (0.12 – 0.04 = 0.08). The final value would be INR 22 crore / 0.08 crore = INR 275 crore.
  • Summing Present Values: We add the present values of the predicted cash flows and the present value of the terminal value. In this case, the total would be INR 8.93 crore + INR 10.71 crores+  INR 12.72 crore + INR 14.84 crore + INR 16.95 crore + INR 195.24 crore = INR 259.39 crore.
  • Compare to Market Price: Compare the calculated present value of 259.39 crores to the market price of the shares. If the market price is lower than the projected present value, it may imply that the shares are undervalued. If the market price is higher than the projected present value, it may indicate that the shares are overpriced.


Finally, discounted cash flow (DCF) valuation is a useful approach for estimating the intrinsic value of an investment or company by discounting predicted future cash flows to their present value. DCF gives a complete way to estimate the worth of an asset by combining the time value of money and the investor’s necessary rate of return. In financial modeling, the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) valuation method assesses the intrinsic value of an investment by discounting future cash flows to present value. It assists investors in making informed decisions by taking into account predicted cash flows and the risk associated with the investment. To guarantee accurate and relevant findings, it is critical to use credible data, create reasonable estimates, and use judgment while implementing DCF valuation.

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