Valuation of SAS AB: With the DCF approach and a relative valuation method

Minna Emilie Riishøj & Katrine Staub Jensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


SAS is the largest airline company in Scandinavia and 50% of the shares are owned by the Norwegian, Swe-dish and Danish governments. The preceding years SAS has been subject to major financial troubles and was in the fall 2012 very close to bankruptcy. An important reason for the airline’s survival was the credit facili-ties provided by banks and the three governments. In this paper we estimate the fundamental value of the SAS share based on a discounted cash flow analysis and a relative valuation analysis. Furthermore, we dis-cuss how the ownership structure might play a role in this context. The analysis reveals that SAS is facing considerable strategic as well as financial challenges. Important rea-sons are found in very expensive collective agreements, the nature of the regulatory environment and strong competitive forces. Especially the entrance of low cost carriers (LCCs) has intensified competition the pre-ceding years. Furthermore, SAS is subject to high systematic risk, and hence high sensitivity to fluctuations in business cycles. These issues are reflected in very low profit margins. The estimation of WACC and the cash flow forecast are based on these considerations. The DCF approach provides us with a theoretical share price of 4.60 SEK. Compared to the market price of 13.75 SEK our re-sult indicates that the share is highly overvalued by the market. This result is supported by our relative valuation analysis, where we seek to adjust simple multiples for dif-ferences in fundamentals among comparable firms. This is done by developing regression models with a multiple as the dependent variable and fundamentals as explanatory variables. This approach indicates that the value of the SAS share is zero and hence that a going concern assumption is not justified. A reason might be that SAS’ survival strongly depended on the credit facilities provided by banks and the three govern-ments. Thus, because of the interest of major shareholders, SAS might not be truly operating on market terms. This issue is not controlled for in the relative valuation approach. Thus, when the ownership structure is taken into account, we expect that SAS has a future potential and hence a positive value. Consequently, the result obtained in the DCF analysis becomes our best estimate. This value lies between the market price and the price obtained in the relative valuation analysis. A value between zero and the market price is supported by the sensitivity analysis. Thus, each method applied, obtains the same result: namely that SAS is overvalued by the market. An overvaluation can have several reasons. One might be that the market overestimates SAS’ growth poten-tial. Two other possible reasons can be found in topics related to Corporate Governance and Behavioral Fi-nance. As regards Corporate Governance, we discuss how the ownership concentration might affect the share price. Behavioral Finance provides another explanation by introducing differences in belief among investors

EducationsMSc in Applied Economics and Finance, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages154