Centene Corp (NYSE: CNC), a healthcare firm with a market capitalization of $19.7 billion, currently trades at an EBITDA Multiple of 9.3x which is below the sector’s median multiple of 16.4x. Although this makes CNC look attractive, investors may change their mind after reviewing the assumptions behind the EV / EBITDA ratio. In the post below, I calculate Centene’s fair value using an EBITDA Multiples valuation.
How To Interpret Centene’s EBITDA Multiple
A multiples valuation, also known as a comparable companies analysis, determines the value of a subject company by benchmarking the subject’s financial performance against companies deemed to be similar. We can then determine if a company is undervalued or overvalued relative to its peers by comparing metrics like growth, profit margin, and valuation multiples.
EV / EBITDA, also known as Enterprise Value-to-EBITDA Multiple or an EBITDA Multiple, measures the dollars in Enterprise Value for each dollar of EBITDA. Its key benefit over the P/E multiple is that it’s capital structure-neutral, and, therefore, better at comparing companies with different levels of debt. The general formula behind an EBITDA Multiples valuation model is the following:
Enterprise Value = EBITDA x Selected Multiple
The EV / EBITDA ratio by itself is not very helpful at all. It is only useful when comparing it to other companies that are considered similar to the subject company. The basic idea is that companies with similar characteristics should trade at similar multiples, all other things being equal. Therefore, we can come to a conclusion about the stock if the ratios are different. In the chart below, I compare Centene’s EV / EBITDA ratio to its peer group that includes Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM), Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET), Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI) and Anthem, Inc.(NYSE: ANTM).
Since Centene’s EV / EBITDA ratio of 9.3x is higher than the median of its peers (7.3x), it means that investors are paying more than they should for each dollar of CNC’s EBITDA. As such, our analysis shows that CNC represents an overvalued stock. Furthermore, finbox.io’s EV / EBITDA Ratio Model calculates a fair value of $94.75 per share which implies -14.4% downside.
I selected a fair multiple of 7.4x in my analysis by averaging Centene’s current EV / EBITDA ratio with its peer group.
EBITDA Multiple Flaws
While this approach typically provides a reasonable valuation range, it is important to understand that our conclusion rests on some important assumptions. The first being that the selected peer group actually contains companies that truly are similar to Centene. The second important assumption is that the selected peer group stocks are being fairly valued by the market.
If the assumptions above do not hold to be true, then the difference in EV / EBITDA ratios could be due to a variety of factors. For example, if you accidentally compare Centene with lower growth companies, then its EBITDA multiple would naturally be higher than its peers since investors reward high growth stocks with a higher price.
source: EBITDA multiples model
Now if the second assumption does not hold true, Centene’s higher multiple may be because firms in our peer group are being undervalued by the market.
What To Do Next
As a current investor, you may have already conducted fundamental analysis on the company and its stock so its current overvaluation could signal a potential selling opportunity to reduce your exposure to CNC. But keep in mind the EV / EBITDA ratio’s potential flaws when applying this valuation approach. It is important to note that there are a variety of other fundamental factors that I have not taken into consideration in this article. I highly recommend that you continue your research on Centene by taking a look at the following:
Valuation Metrics: how much upside do shares of Centene have based on Wall Street’s consensus price target? Take a look at our analyst upside data explorer that compares the company’s upside relative to its peers.
Risk Metrics: how is Centene’s financial health? Find out by viewing our financial leverage data metric which plots the dollars in total assets for each dollar of common equity over time.
Efficiency Metrics: is management becoming more or less efficient over time? Find out by analyzing the company’s asset turnover ratio which measures the dollars in revenue a company generates per dollar of assets.
As of this writing, I did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities and this is not a buy or sell recommendation on any security mentioned.