Valuation involves putting a price on a piece of property, whether it be real estate, intellectual property (patents, copyrights, trademarks, and other intangibles), personal property, or a business. In the context of a business valuation the appraiser considers many factors, including financial attributes (such as sales and profitability trends, noncash expenses, capital expenditures, tangible and intangible assets, the implications of long-term contracts, nonrecurring profit and loss statement items, related party transactions, and contingent liabilities), marketing attributes (including location, competition, barriers to entry, distributor relationships) and macroeconomic attributes (regulatory constraints, labor relations, interest rates, general economic conditions, the state of the art for the company's products, and others). A thorough understanding of the subject company's background and circumstances is critical to the appraiser's ability to assess the reasonableness of various assumptions that will underlie the valuation.


There are many different valuation methodologies, some more suited to certain types of property than others. The main approaches include liquidation, asset value, market comparable, and discounted cash flow.


This method assumes a company will cease operations and that the value will simply be the sum of the individual assets that can be sold; no goodwill for the company's name, location, customer base, or other accumulated experience is captured. This level is further divided into forced liquidations (as in a bankruptcy) and orderly liquidations, with values generally placed higher in the latter.


This approach starts with the company's book values per its balance sheet (at historical cost), and makes adjustments thereto to bring them in line with market values. For example, real estate acquired long ago is frequently worth more than its historical cost. Alternatively, some intangible assets may have no continuing value in certain situations, or may be worth much more than book value in others. This method is most often used in companies where much of the assets are commodity like.


This approach looks to comparable companies—in terms of industry, size, growth rates, capitalization, and other factors—for which a market value is known or observable (e.g., publicly held companies) to establish a gauge. Then, a ratio of value is calculated for the comparable(s)—such as market to book, market to earnings, and market to cash flow —which is applied to the target company's parameters. In some cases a comparable private company may have recently changed hands under similar terms and circumstances. Here, the particular transaction may be useful as an indicator of value.


This method uses projections of future cash flows from operating the business or using the asset, and requires detailed assumptions about future operations, including volumes, pricing, costs, and other factors. DCF usually starts with forecast income, adding back noncash expenses, deducting capital expenditures, and adjusting for working capital changes to arrive at expected cash flows. The appropriate discount rate must be determined and used to bring the future cash flows back to their present value at the as-of date of the valuation. DCF in its single-period form is known as capitalization of earnings, which usually involves normalizing a recent measure of income or cash flow to reflect a steady-state or going forward amount that can be capitalized at the appropriate multiple.


It is important to recognize and deal properly with certain subtleties and standards in the field of valuation. Issues and standards to be aware of include:

[ Christopher C. Barry ,

updated by Wendy H. Mason ]


Copeland, Tom, Tim Koller, and Jack Murrin. Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies. New York: Wiley, 1995.

Damodaran, Aswath. Investment Valuation: Tools and Techniques for Determining the Value of Any Asset. New York: Wiley, 1996.

Pratt, Shannon P. Valuing a Business. Homewood, IL: Dow Jones-Irwin, 1989.

West, Tom, and Jeffrey D. Jones, eds. Handbook of Business Valuation. New York: Wiley, 1992.

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