Does CDW’s (NASDAQ: CDW) EBITDA Multiple Signal A Selling Opportunity?

in VALUATION MULTIPLES by

CDW (NASDAQ: CDW), an information technology firm with a market capitalization of $10.9 billion, currently trades at an EBITDA Multiple of 12.3x which is below the sector’s median multiple of 15.8x. Although this makes CDW look attractive, investors may change their mind after reviewing the assumptions behind the EV / EBITDA ratio. In the post below, I calculate CDW’s fair value using an EBITDA Multiples valuation.


How To Interpret CDW’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 CDW’s EV / EBITDA ratio to its peer group that includes Synnex Corporation (NYSE: SNX), Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company (NYSE: HPE), Arrow Electronics, Inc. (NYSE: ARW) and Avnet, Inc. (NYSE: AVT).

CDW EBITDA Multiple vs Peers Chartsource: finbox.io Benchmarks: EBITDA Multiples

Since CDW’s EV / EBITDA ratio of 12.3x is higher than the median of its peers (8.1x), it means that investors are paying more than they should for each dollar of CDW’s EBITDA. As such, our analysis shows that CDW represents an overvalued stock. Furthermore, finbox.io’s EV / EBITDA Ratio Model calculates a fair value of roughly $43.00 per share which implies around 40.0% downside.

CDW EV / EBITDA Valuation Calculation

I selected a fair multiple of 8.5x in my analysis by averaging CDW’s current EV / EBITDA ratio with its peer group and sector.


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 CDW. 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 CDW 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.

CDW EBITDA Growth and Margins vs Peers Tablesource: EBITDA multiples model

Now if the second assumption does not hold true, CDW’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 CDW. 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 CDW by taking a look at the following:

Valuation Metrics: what is CDW’s EBITDA less CapEx multiple and how does it compare to its peers? This is a helpful multiple to analyze when comparing capital intensive businesses. View the company’s EBITDA less CapEx multiple here.

Risk Metrics: what is CDW’s asset efficiency? This ratio measures the amount of cash flow that a company generates from its assets. View the company’s asset efficiency here.

Efficiency Metrics: is management becoming more or less efficient in creating value for the firm? Find out by analyzing the company’s return on invested capital ratio here.

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.

Expertise: Valuation, financial statement analysis. Matt Hogan is also a co-founder of finbox.io. His expertise is in investment decision making. Prior to finbox.io, Matt worked for an investment banking group providing fairness opinions in connection to stock acquisitions. He spent much of his time building valuation models to help clients determine an asset’s fair value. He believes that these same valuation models should be used by all investors before buying or selling a stock. His work is frequently published at InvestorPlace, Benzinga, ValueWalk, AAII, Barron’s, Seeking Alpha and investing.com. Matt can be reached at matt@finbox.io or at +1 (516) 778-6257.

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