There are some industries that experience significant upheaval and change as a result of a disruptive technology or change in consumer behavior. The erosion of economic fundamentals that occurs will impact a Value Investor's estimation of a business' intrinsic value.
An immediate example that comes to mind is the newspaper and print media industry. Let's see what Buffett has to say on the matter:
From the 1991 Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders:
"We have a significant investment in media - both through our direct ownership of Buffalo News and our shareholdings in The Washington Post Company and Capital Cities/ABC - and the intrinsic value of this investment has declined materially because of the secular transformation that the industry is experiencing."
And again in his 2006 Letter:
"And fundamentals are definitely eroding in the newspaper industry, a trend that has caused the profits of our Buffalo News to decline. The skid will almost certainly continue."
And for those who might believe that each newspaper's website will substitute for any lost revenue Buffett continues:
"True, we have the leading online news operation in Buffalo, and it will continue to attract more viewers and ads. However, the economic potential of a newspaper internet site – given the many alternative sources of information and entertainment that are free and only a click away – is at best a small fraction of that existing in the past for a print newspaper facing no competition."
And now for a real-life example: Gannett Co [Ticker: GCI]. Founded in 1906, Gannett's operations are primarily in the US and UK, and include 90 daily newspapers, 1,000 non-daily publications as well as 23 television stations that reach an estimated 20 million viewers in the US.
In order to establish an estimate of Gannett's Intrinsic Value, I will first need to obtain an estimate for free cash flow. Going to Yahoo Finance for last year's Cash flow Statement, I take Net Income, add Depreciation and subtract Capital expenditure. Free Cash flow comes out to be around $1.24 billion.
Now comes the tricky part: estimating future earnings growth. I go to analyst consensus earnings - here. Scrolling down to the bottom of the page I see that analysts are expecting average annual earnings growth for the next 5 years of 4.35%.
I now plug both these figures into a simple DCF calculation, use a 10% discount rate, divide by the total number of shares outstanding and get an intrinsic value of about $64 per share - a 55% discount to current market price. On the face of things - this seems like a bargain, right?
What's wrong here? Going back to Yahoo's analysts consensus earnings estimates, I take a look at earnings growth for the last 5 years - an average of just under 2%. Many studies have shown that analysts tend to be optimistic in their assumptions - and here we see it in action. The last 5 years earnings growth was barely 2%, and analysts believe that in the next 5 it'll be double that? I doubt it.
What happens if I plug in 0% growth for the next 10 years into my DCF - in other words the industry remains stagnant and goes nowhere. I come up with an intrinsic value of $44 - still a 7% discount to today's price. In other words, contrary to analyst consensus, the market believes that the industry will experience continued erosion.
Gannett looks like a bargain, but a Value Investor who looks past the numbers, takes analyst estimates with a pinch of salt, and investigates what's happening in the industry may come to a completely different conclusion.
Disclosure: Avi Ifergan does not hold a position in GCI.
Avi Ifergan is the Managing Partner of Israel Value Funds (www.israelvalue.com) an Israel-based investment partnership that follows a disciplined and long term oriented Value Investing approach, with a primary focus on Israeli public companies. Avi is a former equity analyst, corporate advisor and serial entrepreneur. These days he spends his time teaching economics at a major Israeli university and seeking value investing opportunities. He very much appreciates your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.