The 3 different approaches used to value a business are the: 1) Asset Approach, 2) Income Approach, and 3) Market Approach.
The Asset Approach is generally considered to yield the minimum benchmark of value for an operating enterprise. The most common methods within this approach are Net Asset Value and Liquidation Value. Net Asset Value represents net equity of the business after assets and liabilities have been adjusted to their fair market values. The Liquidation Value of the business represents the present value of the estimated net proceeds from liquidating the Company's assets and paying off its liabilities.
The Income Approach serves to estimate value by considering the income (benefits) generated by the asset over a period of time. This approach is based on the fundamental valuation principle that the value of a business is equal to the present worth of the future benefits of ownership. The term income does not necessarily refer to income in the accounting sense but to future benefits accruing to the owner.
The most common methods under this approach are Capitalization of Earnings and Discounted Future Earnings. Under the Capitalization of Earnings method, normalized historic earnings are capitalized at a rate that reflects the risk inherent in the expected future growth in those earnings. The Discounted Future Earnings method discounts projected future earnings back to present value at a rate that reflects the risk inherent in the projected earnings.
Additional methods under the Income Approach are Capitalization of Excess Earnings and Multiple of Discretionary Earnings. Commonly referred to as the “formula method,” the Capitalization of Excess Earnings method determines the value of tangible and intangible assets separately and combines these component values for an indication of total entity value. Under the Multiple of Discretionary Earnings method, the entity is valued based on a multiple of “discretionary earnings,” i.e., earnings available to the owner who is also a manager. Both of these methods are normally used to value small businesses and professional practices.
The Market Approach compares the subject company to the prices of similar companies operating in the same industry. Comparable companies can be privately owned or publicly traded where the valuation multiples are determined from the purchase/sale price for the company. A common problem for privately owned businesses is a lack of publicly available comparable data. Comparable companies can also be publicly traded where the valuation multiples are derived from the trading price for the public companies stock as of the date of the valuation.