Valuation is the essence of finance. It asks the question, "What is the 'fair' price to pay for an asset that has a set of uncertain future cash flows?" In the past, the answer to this question was provided by time-tested methods. In recent years, however, new approaches have emerged as practitioners have sought improved ways to assess value. New approaches have also evolved in response to the development of the "new economy" and the many e-commerce companies that were privatized without a history of either earnings or cash flows.
With the backdrop of a rapidly changing valuation environment, this book presents a practitioner-oriented view of the fundamentals of firm valuation. The focus is on valuation for acquisition purposes. In large measure, an acquisition is viewed herein as equivalent to the purchase of any productive asset, namely, as a capital budgeting exercise. Furthermore, valuation is considered to be an art, not a science. Consequently, the reader will find that there are many "rules of thumb" but few inviolable principles to guide them.
The metrics used for valuing companies are not well defined, varying often according to the objectives of the valuation and often with the companies themselves. Consequently, executives and equity analysts face many choices and dilemmas as they try to assess value. Throughout this book, practical solutions are suggested for dealing with these dilemmas and for helping the reader make informed choices. The methods discussed are principally for use in nonfinancial companies; the topic of valuing financial companies is beyond the scope of this book.
To use this book effectively, the reader will need an understanding of the fundamentals of accounting and finance. Furthermore, a background in spreadsheet software, such as EXCEL, is also beneficial.