Century Aluminum Company (NASDAQ: CENX) shares currently trade at 8.6x its trailing EBITDA which is lower than the Materials sector median of 10.2x. While this makes CENX look like a stock to add to your portfolio, equity investors might change their mind after taking a closer look at the assumptions behind the EV / EBITDA ratio. In this article, I define how to calculate an EBITDA Multiple and what to keep an eye out for when applying it in a comparable companies analysis.
Century Aluminum Comparable Companies Analysis
A comparable companies analysis, also known as a multiples valuation, determines the value of a subject company by benchmarking its financial performance against similar public companies or peers. We can conclude if a company looks undervalued or overvalued relative to its peers by comparing metrics like growth, profit margin, and valuation ratios.
Enterprise Value-to-EBITDA Multiple, also known as the EV / EBITDA ratio or an EBITDA Multiple, measures the dollars in Enterprise Value for each dollar of EBITDA. To determine if a company is expensive, it’s far more useful to compare EV / EBITDA multiples than the absolute stock price. 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 Century Aluminum’s EV / EBITDA ratio to its peer group that includes Alcoa Corporation (NYSE: AA), Aluminum Corporation of China Limited (NYSE: ACH), Constellium N.V. (NYSE: CSTM) and Kaiser Aluminum Corporation (NASDAQ: KALU).
Since Century Aluminum’s EBITDA multiple of 8.6x is higher than the median of its peers (7.9x), it means that investors are paying more than they should for each dollar of CENX’s EBITDA. As such, our analysis shows that CENX represents an overvalued stock. In fact, finbox.io’s EBITDA Multiples Model calculates a fair value of around $15.50 per share which implies roughly 11.0% downside.
I selected a fair multiple of 8.0x in my analysis by averaging Century Aluminum’s current EV / EBITDA ratio with its peer group and sector.
Are Comps Really Comparable?
Before concluding that Century Aluminum should be banished from your portfolio, it is important to understand that our conclusion rests on two important assumptions.
(1) the selected peer group actually contains companies that truly are similar to Century Aluminum, and
(2) the selected peer group stocks are being fairly valued by the market.
If the first assumption is not accurate, the difference in EBITDA multiples could be due to a variety of factors. For example, if you accidentally compare Century Aluminum 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, Century Aluminum’s higher multiple may be because firms in our peer group are being undervalued by the market.
How This Impacts Shareholders
As a shareholder, you may have already conducted fundamental analysis on the stock so its current overvaluation could signal a potential selling opportunity to reduce your exposure to CENX. However, keep in mind the limitations of an EBITDA multiples valuation when making an investment decision. There are a variety of other fundamental factors that I have not taken into consideration in this article. If you have not done so already, I highly recommend that you complete your research on Century Aluminum by taking a look at the following:
Valuation Metrics: what is Century Aluminum’s free cash flow yield and how does it compare to its publicly traded peers? This metric measures the amount of free cash flow for each dollar of equity (market capitalization). Analyze the free cash flow yield here.
Risk Metrics: what is Century Aluminum’s cash ratio which is used to assess a company’s short-term liquidity. View the company’s cash ratio here.
Efficiency Metrics: return on equity is used to measure the return that a firm generates on the book value of common equity. View Century Aluminum’s return on equity 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.