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Valuation Approaches:
The Asset, Income, and Market Approach


In the broadest sense, a business valuation is a process of determining how much the business or a percentage of ownership in a business is worth. According to the IRS Revenue Ruling 59-60 (follow this link to full text) no general formula may be used that is applicable to all different circumstances and facts of business valuations.  However, the general approach, methods, and factors which must be considered when performing a business valuation are defined by the IRS ruling 59-60. 


February 5, 2024

Key Contact:

Anastasia I. Bourgeois


Professional business valuators generally recognize three broad approaches used to value closely held businesses - the asset-based approach, market approach, and income approach. Each of the valuation approaches includes several underlying methods that are applied by business valuation experts when deemed appropriate based on the facts and circumstances of each valuation engagement. 

According to the National Association of Certified Valuation Analysts Development Standards for valuation services, business valuators should consider all three valuation approaches and use professional judgment to select the valuation approach(es) and method(s) that best indicate the value of the business interest.   


The asset-based approach is defined as a general way of determining the value of a business based on the value of its assets net of liabilities. Under this method, all tangible and intangible, recorded and unrecorded assets of the business are identified and reduced by the value of all outstanding liabilities. The two main methods within the asset-based approach typically used in professional business appraisals are the Book Value Method and the Adjusted Net Asset Method.

1.1  The Book Value Method allows business appraisers to estimate the value of a business by subtracting the book value of a company’s liabilities from the book value of its assets. Book Value is defined as a value of an asset or liability as it appears on the company’s balance sheet.

Most professional business valuators agree that this method has several limitations. Even though this method is often used in buy-sell agreements, a conclusion of value established based on the Book Value Method may exclude or measure incorrectly the value of some assets.

1.2 The Adjusted Net Asset Method allows valuation experts to adjust all assets and liabilities from book value to fair market value, and estimate the value of a business by subtracting the fair market value of a company’s outstanding liabilities from the fair market value of its tangible and intangible, recorded and unrecorded assets.

The Adjusted Net Asset Method is an appropriate method for estimating the value of a holding company or capital-intensive company such as a closely held partnership with large investments in stocks, bonds, or real estate, because the value of the company is closely related to the value of the underlying assets. This method may also applicable when losses are continually generated, when liquidation is imminent, and when the value indicated by this method is greater than the values indicated by other valuation approaches.


Using the market approach, business valuation professionals base the value of a company on how similar companies, both private and public, were priced in the market in the past. ​Based on the identified transactions, appropriate pricing multiples are calculated, such as price-to-revenue or price-to-earnings ratios and applied to the revenue or earnings of a business being valued.   

The four main methods, within the market approach, typically used in professional business valuations are the Guideline Public Company Method, the Merger and Acquisition Method, the Prior Sales of Interest in Subject Company Method, and the Dividend Paying Capacity Method.

2.1 The Guideline Public Company Method encompasses determining multiples from market prices of stocks of guideline companies, which are publicly traded companies engaged in the same or similar lines of business as the company being valued. ​This method usually relies on transactions consisting of minority interests of publicly traded companies. A minority interest represents an ownership interest of less than 50% of the voting interest in a business characterized by having no power to direct the management and policies of a business.
Several material differences between publicly traded and privately held companies make this method a challenge to use for relatively small, privately-owned businesses.

2.2 The Merger and Acquisition Method, although similar to the Guideline Company Method in its use of price multiples, focuses on the transactions involving the sales of entire companies, rather than sales of minority interests of publicly traded stock. Entire companies represent controlling interest, which is an ownership interest of at least 50% of the voting interest in a business characterized by having the power to direct the management and policies of a business. 

2.3 The Prior Sales of Interest in Subject Company Method focuses on the transactions involving the past sales of interest in the subject company. ​Arm’s-length transactions in the subject company’s stock can provide a good indication of value and must be considered when valuing a company. 

2.4 The Dividend Paying Capacity Method is an income-focused valuation method that is considered a market approach because it is based on market data. The difference between this method and the Capitalization of Earnings income-based method described below is the type of earnings used in the calculations and the source of the capitalization rate. ​The Dividend Paying Capacity Method is based on the future expected dividends to be paid out or the dividend-paying capacity of a company. Within this method, a business valuation expert capitalizes such dividends by applying an average of dividend yields of comparable businesses. This valuation may be suitable for mature businesses with stable dividend policies and limited market data for comparable transactions.


The income valuation approach bases the value of a business on its ability to generate future economic benefits. This valuation approach estimates the value of a business by converting its future expected cash flows or earnings into a single present value. Future earnings, such as net cash flow after taxes, are projected and then capitalized or discounted to perform the valuation.

Two calculation methods are usually utilized within the income approach, the Discounted Cash Flow Method and the Capitalization of Cash Flows Method. 

3.1 The Discounted Cash Flow Method requires estimating the future cash flow streams of the business and discounting them by the discount rate. The discount rate represents the total rate of return that investors would demand on the purchase of a comparable investment considering the value of money and level of associated business and economic risk. ​The Discounted Cash Flow method is typically used when future expected cash flows or growth rates are expected to vary over a certain period of time.

3.2 The Capitalization of Cash Flows Method is appropriate when a company’s historical earnings can reasonably be considered indicative of its future financial performance and is best applied when valuing mature and well-established companies with steady earnings. Within this method, a company’s future economic benefits for a representative single period are converted into value through division by a capitalization rate.  Capitalization rate for a company is equal to the discount rate described under the Discounted Cash Flow Method above less the company's expected long-term sustainable growth rate.  

​​Considering all three valuation approaches is crucial in determining the value of a privately-owned business. It is important for a business owner to understand these business valuation approaches in order to be able to communicate all relevant facts and circumstances to the professional business appraiser. A close collaboration between the company’s owner, top management, and a business appraiser aids in developing a thorough and well-supported valuation conclusion.



AICPA, ASA, CICBV, NACVA and IBA (2017).  International Glossary of Business Valuation Terms. Retrieved from: ttps://

Internal Revenue Service (1959). IRS Revenue Ruling 59-60. Valuation of Non-Traded Assets. See a link to full text (PDF).

National Association of Certified Valuators and Analyst, NACVA (2013). Professional Standards.  Retrieved from:

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