Trinity College (A) Net Present Value (NPV) / MBA Resources

Introduction to Net Present Value (NPV) - What is Net Present Value (NPV) ? How it impacts financial decisions regarding project management?

NPV solution for Trinity College (A) case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Trinity College (A) case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by F. Warren McFarlan, Jaan Elias. The Trinity College (A) (referred as “Gerety Amherst” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Leadership & Managing People. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Leadership, Social enterprise, Succession planning.

The net present value (NPV) of an investment proposal is the present value of the proposal’s net cash flows less the proposal’s initial cash outflow. If a project’s NPV is greater than or equal to zero, the project should be accepted.

NPV = Present Value of Future Cash Flows LESS Project’s Initial Investment

Case Description of Trinity College (A) Case Study

Trinity College was an elite, private, liberal-arts college of some 1,800 students located in Hartford, CT. When Tom Gerety was chosen as Trinity's 17th president in 1989, he pledged to stay for ten years. Now less than five years at the job, Gerety announced he was resigning to become president at Amherst. For Alfred Koeppel, the chairman of Trinity's Board of Trustees, Gerety's decision could not have come at a worse time. The college was about to announce a $100 million capital campaign. Its number two position, the dean of the faculty, was vacant and Trinity's initiative to redevelop its urban neighborhood had just started. In addition to these difficulties, Gerety's defection to Amherst was doubly painful because Trinity considered Amherst a direct rival for students and reputation. This case discusses the development of Gerety and Koeppel's relationship, the unfinished business that Gerety leaves behind at the time of his resignation, the anger and feelings of betrayal on campus, and the search for interim and permanent president. Written from board chairman Koeppel's perspective and highlights the many roles and duties a board chairman might have to assume in a crisis.

Case Authors : F. Warren McFarlan, Jaan Elias

Topic : Leadership & Managing People

Related Areas : Leadership, Social enterprise, Succession planning

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Trinity College (A) Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10026132) -10026132 - -
Year 1 3451675 -6574457 3451675 0.9434 3256297
Year 2 3974864 -2599593 7426539 0.89 3537615
Year 3 3973829 1374236 11400368 0.8396 3336503
Year 4 3246518 4620754 14646886 0.7921 2571546
TOTAL 14646886 12701962

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2675830

In isolation the NPV number doesn't mean much but put in right context then it is one of the best method to evaluate project returns. In this article we will cover -

Different methods of capital budgeting

What is NPV & Formula of NPV,
How it is calculated,
How to use NPV number for project evaluation, and
Scenario Planning given risks and management priorities.

Capital Budgeting Approaches

Methods of Capital Budgeting

There are four types of capital budgeting techniques that are widely used in the corporate world –

1. Profitability Index
2. Net Present Value
3. Internal Rate of Return
4. Payback Period

Apart from the Payback period method which is an additive method, rest of the methods are based on Discounted Cash Flow technique. Even though cash flow can be calculated based on the nature of the project, for the simplicity of the article we are assuming that all the expected cash flows are realized at the end of the year.

Discounted Cash Flow approaches provide a more objective basis for evaluating and selecting investment projects. They take into consideration both –

1. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Gerety Amherst have higher preference for cash returns over 4-5 years rather than 10-15 years given the nature of the volatility in the industry.
2. Magnitude of both incoming and outgoing cash flows – Projects can be capital intensive, time intensive, or both. Gerety Amherst shareholders have preference for diversified projects investment rather than prospective high income from a single capital intensive project.

Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of Trinity College (A)

NPV = Net Cash In Flowt1 / (1+r)t1 + Net Cash In Flowt2 / (1+r)t2 + … Net Cash In Flowtn / (1+r)tn
Less Net Cash Out Flowt0 / (1+r)t0

Where t = time period, in this case year 1, year 2 and so on.
r = discount rate or return that could be earned using other safe proposition such as fixed deposit or treasury bond rate. Net Cash In Flow – What the firm will get each year.
Net Cash Out Flow – What the firm needs to invest initially in the project.

Step 1 – Understand the nature of the project and calculate cash flow for each year.
Step 2 – Discount those cash flow based on the discount rate.
Step 3 – Add all the discounted cash flow.
Step 4 – Selection of the project

Why Leadership & Managing People Managers need to know Financial Tools such as Net Present Value (NPV)?

In our daily workplace we often come across people and colleagues who are just focused on their core competency and targets they have to deliver. For example marketing managers at Gerety Amherst often design programs whose objective is to drive brand awareness and customer reach. But how that 30 point increase in brand awareness or 10 point increase in customer touch points will result into shareholders’ value is not specified.

To overcome such scenarios managers at Gerety Amherst needs to not only know the financial aspect of project management but also needs to have tools to integrate them into part of the project development and monitoring plan.

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 15%

After working through various assumptions we reached a conclusion that risk is far higher than 6%. In a reasonably stable industry with weak competition - 15% discount rate can be a good benchmark.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 15 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10026132) -10026132 - -
Year 1 3451675 -6574457 3451675 0.8696 3001457
Year 2 3974864 -2599593 7426539 0.7561 3005568
Year 3 3973829 1374236 11400368 0.6575 2612857
Year 4 3246518 4620754 14646886 0.5718 1856207
TOTAL 10476089

The Net NPV after 4 years is 449957

(10476089 - 10026132 )

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 20%

If the risk component is high in the industry then we should go for a higher hurdle rate / discount rate of 20%.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 20 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10026132) -10026132 - -
Year 1 3451675 -6574457 3451675 0.8333 2876396
Year 2 3974864 -2599593 7426539 0.6944 2760322
Year 3 3973829 1374236 11400368 0.5787 2299670
Year 4 3246518 4620754 14646886 0.4823 1565643
TOTAL 9502031

The Net NPV after 4 years is -524101

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9502031 - 10026132 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Gerety Amherst to discount cash flow at lower discount rates such as 15%.

Acceptance Criteria of a Project based on NPV

Simplest Approach – If the investment project of Gerety Amherst has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Gerety Amherst can ACCEPT the project, otherwise they can reject the project. This means that project will deliver higher returns over the period of time than any alternate investment strategy.

In theory if the required rate of return or discount rate is chosen correctly by finance managers at Gerety Amherst, then the stock price of the Gerety Amherst should change by same amount of the NPV. In real world we know that share price also reflects various other factors that can be related to both macro and micro environment.

In the same vein – accepting the project with zero NPV should result in stagnant share price. Finance managers use discount rates as a measure of risk components in the project execution process.

Sensitivity Analysis

Project selection is often a far more complex decision than just choosing it based on the NPV number. Finance managers at Gerety Amherst should conduct a sensitivity analysis to better understand not only the inherent risk of the projects but also how those risks can be either factored in or mitigated during the project execution. Sensitivity analysis helps in –

What are the uncertainties surrounding the project Initial Cash Outlay (ICO’s). ICO’s often have several different components such as land, machinery, building, and other equipment.

What are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

Some of the assumptions while using the Discounted Cash Flow Methods –

Projects are assumed to be Mutually Exclusive – This is seldom the came in modern day giant organizations where projects are often inter-related and rejecting a project solely based on NPV can result in sunk cost from a related project.

Independent projects have independent cash flows – As explained in the marketing project – though the project may look independent but in reality it is not as the brand awareness project can be closely associated with the spending on sales promotions and product specific advertising.

References & Further Readings

F. Warren McFarlan, Jaan Elias (2018), "Trinity College (A) Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.