Facing Up to Uncertainty: Using Probabilistic Approaches in Valuation

65 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2018

See all articles by Aswath Damodaran

Aswath Damodaran

New York University - Stern School of Business

Date Written: August 23, 2018


In valuation practice, it is common to use point estimates for input variables to arrive at a point estimate of value. This practice has its roots in the twentieth century, where data was difficult or expensive to access, and practitioners had weak tools. As data becomes more accessible and models more powerful, it is worth examining whether we can make our valuations of projects and businesses richer and more informative, by drawing on established statistical tools and we introduce three in this paper. The first is scenario analysis, where you lay out a broad range of scenarios, and estimate a value under each one. If the scenarios represent the complete spectrum of outcomes, you could even derive an expected value. The second is decision trees, suited for projects or businesses that have to deal with sequential risk, where you have to make it through one step to get to the next. The third and most comprehensive approach is simulations, where you replace point estimates of one or more input variables with probability distributions, and estimate a value distribution for an asset/business, rather than a single value. We look at the why you may pick one approach over the other and pitfalls to avoid along the way.

Keywords: Valuation, Simulation, Decision Trees, Scenario Analysis

JEL Classification: G10, G12

Suggested Citation

Damodaran, Aswath, Facing Up to Uncertainty: Using Probabilistic Approaches in Valuation (August 23, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3237778 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3237778

Aswath Damodaran (Contact Author)

New York University - Stern School of Business ( email )

Stern School of Business
44 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012-1126
United States
212-998-0340 (Phone)
212-995-4233 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.damodaran.com

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