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Determining Discount Rate for Companies with Negative Initial Cash Flows and Future Growth

Updated: Jul 17, 2023



When determining the appropriate discount rate for a company with negative cash flows in the initial years but expected positive cash flows in the future, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. Here's an approach to determining the discount rate in such a scenario:


1. Risk Profile of the Company:

Evaluate the risk profile of the company based on factors such as industry, market conditions, competition, and company-specific risks. Companies with negative cash flows in the initial years often carry higher risk due to uncertainty and operational challenges. Consider the company's risk level compared to industry peers.


2. Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC):

Calculate the Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC), which represents the average rate of return required by the company's investors. The WACC considers the cost of debt and equity financing and reflects the risk associated with the company's capital structure. Adjust the WACC to account for the company's specific risk profile.


3. Adjustments for Negative Cash Flows:

Incorporate adjustments in the DCF analysis to account for the negative cash flows in the initial years. One approach is to apply a higher discount rate during the negative cash flow period to reflect the increased risk. As the company transitions to positive cash flows, gradually decrease the discount rate to reflect the declining risk profile.


4. Sensitivity Analysis:

Perform a sensitivity analysis to understand the impact of different discount rates on the valuation. Consider varying the discount rate within a reasonable range to assess the effect on the present value of future cash flows. This analysis helps evaluate the sensitivity of the valuation to changes in the discount rate.


5. Market Risk Premium and Risk-Free Rate:

Consider the market risk premium, which represents the additional return investors expect for bearing the overall market risk. Adjust the risk-free rate, such as the yield on government bonds, to account for the risk associated with the company's cash flow projections and future performance.


Remember that determining the appropriate discount rate involves a level of judgment and analysis. It is important to consider the specific circumstances of the company, its risk profile, and industry dynamics. Additionally, consulting with industry experts, financial advisors, or utilizing established valuation methodologies can provide further insights into determining an appropriate discount rate.


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