Demystifying Benjamin Graham’s Intrinsic Value Formula: A Comprehensive Guide

Summary:

Benjamin Graham’s Intrinsic Value Formula stands as a foundational concept in value investing, devised by the esteemed “Father of Value Investing” himself. This comprehensive guide explores the formula’s core principles, components, significance, and its relevance in contemporary investment strategies. By demystifying Graham’s methodology, investors gain a robust framework to assess stocks’ true worth, fostering informed and rational decision-making in an unpredictable market landscape.

Benjamin Graham’s legacy in finance is undeniable, with his innovative investment strategies and concepts still shaping modern investment practices. At the heart of his contributions lies the Intrinsic Value Formula, an enduring pillar of value investing. This comprehensive guide dissects the nuances of Graham’s formula, delving into its components, significance, and contemporary applications.

Benjamin Graham’s intrinsic value calculators

You can use the calculator below to calculate the intrinsic value of a stock based on Benjamin Graham’s formula. However, remember that Graham didn’t recommend using this formula. He simply provided it as a way to approximate the valuation methods popular in his time and to illustrate how unrealistic market growth expectations tend to be.

Benjamin Graham’s intrinsic value calculator

This calculator uses the formula: Intrinsic Value = Earnings per Share (EPS) x (8.5 + 2 * Expected Annual Growth Rate)

Benjamin Graham's Original Intrinsic Value Calculator

Enter your info to calculate the value
IMPORTANT: This calculator uses an updated version of Benjamin Graham's formula V = {EPS x (8.5 + 2g). As Benjamin Graham himself warned, be wary of simple forecasting formulas like this. They are only meant as a tool to inform decisions on what the upper limit of a stock price may be. Please conduct further research or consult a financial advisor before making investment decisions.

Benjamin Graham’s updated intrinsic value calculator

This calculator used the formula: V = {EPS x (8.5 + 2g) x 4.4} / Y. It takes into account the minimum return Graham was willing to accept for the risk of investing (4.4) and the return provided by 20-year AAA corporate bonds (Y).

Benjamin Graham's Updated Intrinsic Value Calculator

Enter your info to calculate the value
IMPORTANT: This calculator uses an updated version of Benjamin Graham's formula V = {EPS x (8.5 + 2g) x 4.4} / Y. As Benjamin Graham himself warned, be wary of simple forecasting formulas like this. They are only meant as a tool to inform decisions on what the upper limit of a stock price may be. Please conduct further research or consult a financial advisor before making investment decisions.

Understanding intrinsic value

Intrinsic value, a concept championed by Graham, represents a security’s true value based on its fundamental attributes rather than market sentiment. Graham’s insight illuminated the irrationality of short-term market fluctuations, emphasizing the importance of a rational valuation approach.

Graham’s intrinsic value formula

Graham’s formula equips investors with a systematic methodology to estimate a stock’s intrinsic value. See below for more details on the reasons Graham provided this value and the warnings he attached to it. The equation, simplified, is:
\$latexIntrinsic Value = Earnings per Share (EPS) x (8.5 + 2 * Expected Annual Growth Rate)\$

Components of the Formula

a. Earnings per Share (EPS): As the formula’s cornerstone, EPS reflects a company’s profitability per outstanding share after deducting expenses and taxes.

b. Expected Annual Growth Rate: This vital element incorporates a conservative estimate of a company’s future annual earnings growth over 7 to 10 years.

c. Margin of Safety: Graham’s introduction of the 8.5 and 2 factors cushions against errors and uncertainties, accounting for the inherent risks in stock investment.

Updated Graham Intrinsic Value Formula

Graham’s updated formula offers investors a refined approach to evaluate a stock’s intrinsic value, incorporating the prevailing interest rate environment. Here is the adjusted equation:

Intrinsic Value =

[Earnings per Share (EPS) × (8.5 + 2 × Expected Annual Growth Rate) × 4.4] / Yield

Components of the Updated Formula

• Earnings per Share (EPS): EPS remains at the core of the formula, signifying the company’s profitability for each outstanding share after all deductions, including expenses and taxes.
• Expected Annual Growth Rate: This factor encapsulates a conservative approximation of the company’s future annual earnings growth, typically spanning a 7 to 10-year horizon.
• Margin of Safety Multiplier (4.4): Graham introduced the 4.4 multiplier as a reflection of the average yield of high-quality corporate bonds during his time. It serves as a benchmark against which stocks should be evaluated.
• Yield of 20-YEAR AAA Corporate Bonds: Given that interest rates fluctuate, Graham believed in using the yield of 20-YEAR AAA corporate bonds as a denominator to adjust the intrinsic value in line with prevailing interest rates.

Importance of the updated formula

The incorporation of the 4.4 multiplier and the 20-YEAR AAA bond yield reflects Graham’s understanding of the dynamic nature of financial markets. It underscores the need to account for macroeconomic factors, such as interest rates, when determining a stock’s true worth.

Graham’s emphasis on conservatism and caution remains unchanged, however. As with his original formula, he urged investors to apply the updated equation judiciously and in conjunction with a comprehensive analysis of a company’s financial health and market conditions.

Pros and cons of Benjamin Graham’s intrinsic value formula

WEIGH THE RISKS AND BENEFITS

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the Benjamin Graham intrinsic value formula.

Pros
• Objective Framework: Provides a systematic and objective approach to stock valuation, reducing emotional biases in investment decisions.
• Risk Management: By focusing on intrinsic value, it helps investors avoid overpaying for stocks, particularly during market bubbles.
• Long-term Perspective: Aligns with the principles of value investing, emphasizing long-term wealth creation over short-term speculation.
• Fundamental Analysis: Encourages deep understanding of a company’s fundamentals rather than relying on market hype or trends.
Cons
• Outdated Assumptions: Some argue that the formula may not fully capture the nuances of modern business models, especially tech-based companies.
• Not One-size-fits-all: Might not be suitable for all industries or types of companies, especially those with complex revenue streams.
• Limited Flexibility: The formula can be rigid and might not adapt quickly to rapidly changing market dynamics or global economic shifts.
• Over-reliance Risk: Sole dependence on this formula without considering other metrics can lead to incomplete evaluations.

Significance of the intrinsic value formula

a. Risk Minimization: The intrinsic value formula serves as an essential tool in risk management. By placing emphasis on a company’s intrinsic value, investors can shield themselves from the pitfalls of market euphoria. This is especially pertinent during market bubbles or times when asset prices soar far beyond their real worth. By investing based on intrinsic value, one can avoid overpaying for an asset, thereby reducing potential losses when market corrections occur.

b. Long-Term Perspective: Introduced by Benjamin Graham, the formula is anchored in the principles of value investing. At its core, value investing stresses the importance of taking a long-term view of the market, instead of chasing short-term gains. The intrinsic value formula echoes this philosophy by encouraging investors to focus on the fundamental value of assets over extended periods, diminishing the allure of fleeting market trends and speculative ventures.

c. Objective Decision-Making: One of the major challenges investors face is the influence of emotions, especially during volatile market conditions. The intrinsic value formula offers a systematic and structured approach to valuation. By basing decisions on concrete data and analysis, investors can sidestep the pitfalls of emotional biases, leading to more informed and rational investment choices.

a. Changing Market Dynamics: While the intrinsic value formula has stood the test of time, critics argue that it might not be fully equipped to handle today’s rapidly changing market dynamics. The financial landscape, driven by technological advancements and globalization, has seen significant shifts since Benjamin Graham’s era. This has led many to believe that certain aspects of the formula need adaptation to remain relevant and effective.

b. Complex Businesses: The formula, in its original form, might struggle to accurately value businesses with intricate structures and revenue models. Modern companies, especially those in tech and services sectors, can have nuanced and layered revenue streams that might not be adequately captured by Graham’s more straightforward valuation approach.

Understanding the Benjamin Graham formula correctly

In “The Intelligent Investor,” Graham dedicated two significant chapters, titled “Stock Selection for the Defensive Investor” and “Stock Selection for the Enterprising Investor,” to his stock selection methodology.

Within these chapters, Graham introduced three primary stock categories: Defensive, Enterprising, and NCAV. He also provided seventeen distinct rules, both qualitative and quantitative, for identifying these stocks. These rules were carefully crafted to ensure that investors maintained a Margin of Safety in their investment choices. With today’s technological advancements, modern data-mining software can effectively identify and analyze stocks fitting these categories.

Note that Graham did NOT mention in those chapters the intrinsic value formula we discuss in this article. He included this formula in passing in an unrelated chapter as a way to illustrate how the (then) current popular valuation techniques provided unrealistically high valuations.

The misunderstood intrinsic value formula

One of the most recognized formulas associated with Graham is V = EPS x (8.5 + 2g). However, it’s pivotal to understand that Graham mentioned this formula in “The Intelligent Investor” only briefly, intending to illustrate the fallacy in market growth expectations.

Graham explicitly provided two warnings for this formula.

Firstly, he clarified that it does not offer a genuine intrinsic value for stocks.

Secondly, he emphasized that the formula should be seen only as an illustrative tool, highlighting that growth rate projections are often unreliable.

Unfortunately, this formula is often misapplied today, largely due to its misrepresentation in recent editions of the book.

How the misunderstanding started

The current widespread edition of “The Intelligent Investor” includes commentary by Jason Zweig. This version, unfortunately, moved original footnotes, like Graham’s cautionary note about the formula, to the end of the book as endnotes.

This restructuring has inadvertently led many readers to overlook these critical notes, fostering misunderstandings about the formula’s intent and application.

The updated intrinsic value formula

An “updated” formula, often cited in financial circles, is represented as V = {EPS x (8.5 + 2g) x 4.4} / Y, where Y is the current yield on 20-year AAA corporate bonds.

This supposed update stems from a fleeting remark Graham made during a subsequent interview. However, it’s essential to realize that this updated formula carries the same reservations and cautions as the original.

Other warning signs

Graham has always been a staunch critic of relying heavily on financial forecasts. Therefore, the term “Expected Growth Rate” within the formula should be approached skeptically.

In stark contrast to this formula, Graham’s genuine framework predominantly utilized objective historical data and never demanded presumptions about future performance. This contentious formula necessitates a subjective “expected annual growth rate,” making it a deviation from Graham’s typical approach.

Another glaring omission in the formula is the lack of checks for assets, a staple in Graham’s real framework.

Notably, the V = EPS x (8.5 + 2g) formula is best suited for dissecting past market miscalculations concerning growth expectations and is ill-fitted for computing present intrinsic values or predicting future growth trajectories.

Keeping It Simple

Warren Buffett’s adage, “Beware of geeks bearing formulas,” is especially pertinent here. While some proponents might continue endorsing the V = EPS x (8.5 + 2g) formula, framing valuation as more art than science, it’s crucial to differentiate the methods Graham fervently endorsed from those he warned against.

The crux is that while Graham made a brief mention of this particular formula, complete with caveats, he dedicated extensive sections to his genuine stock selection strategy. Among the myriad formulas within Graham’s arsenal, the Graham Number stands out as a widely accepted Intrinsic Value calculation.

Application in Modern Investing

a. Valuation Guidelines: Despite the aforementioned limitations, the intrinsic value formula remains a cornerstone in the investment realm. Modern investors, ranging from individual traders to institutional giants, regularly employ modified versions of this formula. These adaptations allow them to glean insights into a stock’s value, fostering prudent and judicious investment decisions.

b. Combining with Other Metrics: To address the formula’s limitations and to provide a holistic view of an asset’s worth, contemporary investors often integrate the Intrinsic Value formula with other financial metrics. For instance, Price-to-Earnings (P/E) ratios, Price-to-Book (P/B) ratios, and Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) analyses are frequently used in conjunction with the intrinsic value approach. By doing so, investors can benefit from a multifaceted analysis, enabling them to navigate the complexities of modern financial markets more adeptly.

Benjamin Graham’s Intrinsic Value Formula endures as a timeless tool for discerning value investors. Anchoring decisions in a stock’s intrinsic value empowers investors to navigate market volatility with poise, aligning with Graham’s commitment to rationality. While adaptation to modern dynamics is crucial, the formula’s essence remains a guiding light for intelligent and disciplined investing.

Frequently asked questions about Benjamin Graham’s Intrinsic Value Formula

Who was Benjamin Graham?

Benjamin Graham, often dubbed the “Father of Value Investing,” was a renowned economist, professor, and investor. He is best known for his groundbreaking work in the field of security analysis and for laying the foundation for modern value investing principles.

What is Benjamin Graham’s background?

Benjamin Graham was born in London in 1894 and later moved to the United States with his family. He graduated from Columbia University and subsequently worked on Wall Street. Graham later returned to Columbia as a faculty member, where he taught for many years. His experiences and insights from both the academic and professional realms of finance significantly influenced his investment philosophy.

How did Benjamin Graham contribute to the world of investing?

Graham is credited with developing the concept of value investing, which emphasizes the importance of analyzing the intrinsic value of stocks. He introduced key concepts like the Margin of Safety and Mr. Market. His teachings and writings, particularly “Security Analysis” (co-authored with David Dodd) and “The Intelligent Investor,” are considered seminal works in the field of finance and investing.

What investments is Benjamin Graham known for?

Throughout his investment career, Graham was known for seeking undervalued stocks with strong fundamentals — those he deemed as having a price lower than their intrinsic value. His firm, Graham-Newman Corporation, had a successful track record using this strategy. One of his most famous investments was in GEICO, which turned out to be extremely profitable.

Did Benjamin Graham have any notable students or protégés?

Yes, one of Graham’s most famous students was Warren Buffett, who studied under him at Columbia University. Buffett has often credited Graham’s teachings as a significant influence on his own investment strategy and philosophy. Many other notable financiers and investors were either directly or indirectly influenced by Graham’s work.

When did Benjamin Graham pass away?

Benjamin Graham passed away in 1976. Despite his passing, his investment principles and teachings continue to shape and influence the world of finance and investing to this day.

What is the Intrinsic Value Formula developed by Benjamin Graham?

The Intrinsic Value Formula is given by: Intrinsic Value = Earnings per Share (EPS) x (8.5 + 2 * Expected Annual Growth Rate). It’s designed to provide investors with a method to determine the true value of a stock based on its fundamentals rather than current market sentiment.

Why is Benjamin Graham’s formula significant in the investment world?

Graham’s formula introduces an objective framework for stock valuation, encouraging investors to focus on intrinsic value over market fluctuations. It promotes risk minimization, a long-term perspective, and rational decision-making, shielding investors from potential pitfalls like overpaying during market bubbles.

What are the main components of the Intrinsic Value Formula?

The formula consists of the Earnings per Share (EPS), which is a measure of a company’s profitability, and the Expected Annual Growth Rate, which gives a conservative estimate of the company’s future growth. The 8.5 and 2 factors are added as a Margin of Safety against potential errors or unforeseen risks in investment.

Are there any limitations to using Benjamin Graham’s formula in modern investing?

Yes, critics have pointed out potential drawbacks. The formula may not be well-suited for today’s dynamic market landscape, especially in evaluating modern business models like tech-based companies. It may also struggle with valuing businesses that have complex revenue structures. However, many modern investors still find value in it, often using it in conjunction with other financial metrics for a holistic analysis.

How has the formula been adapted for contemporary markets?

While the core principles of the Intrinsic Value Formula remain intact, contemporary investors often modify it to address its limitations. Additionally, they may integrate the formula with other metrics such as Price-to-Earnings (P/E) ratios, Price-to-Book (P/B) ratios, and Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) analyses to provide a more comprehensive view of a stock’s value.

What does the formula tell us about Benjamin Graham’s investment philosophy?

Graham’s formula underscores the importance of rational valuation, long-term perspective, and objective decision-making in investing. He championed the idea of focusing on a stock’s intrinsic value rather than being swayed by short-term market trends or speculations. The formula serves as a testament to his commitment to disciplined and informed investing.

Key takeaways

• Benjamin Graham’s Intrinsic Value Formula emphasizes rational valuation over market sentiment.
• The formula incorporates EPS, expected growth rate, and margin of safety to calculate intrinsic value.
• It minimizes risks, encourages long-term perspective, and fosters objective decision-making.
• Adaptations are necessary due to evolving market dynamics and complex businesses.
• Modern investors combine the formula with other metrics for comprehensive assessments.
View Article Sources
1. Value Avatar Benjamin Graham – Library of Congress
2. Rediscovering Benjamin Graham – Columbia University
3. The Intelligent Investor, Revised Edition 2006 – Benjamin Graham
4. Technical Analysis – SuperMoney
5. Intrinsic Value – SuperMoney