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Yale University Investments Office 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 Yale University Investments Office case study


At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Yale University Investments Office case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Josh Lerner, Jay O. Light. The Yale University Investments Office (referred as “Yale Endowment” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Finance & Accounting. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Financial management, Financial markets, Marketing, Mergers & acquisitions, Motivating people, Venture capital.

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 Yale University Investments Office Case Study


Yale University's investment office was responsible for managing its endowment, which totaled nearly $4 billion in June 1995. Yale had developed a rather different approach to endowment management, including substantial investments in "less efficient" equity markets such as private equity, real estate, and "absolute return" investments. The investment office was now considering devoting even more of their assets to these markets.


Case Authors : Josh Lerner, Jay O. Light

Topic : Finance & Accounting

Related Areas : Financial management, Financial markets, Marketing, Mergers & acquisitions, Motivating people, Venture capital




Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Yale University Investments Office Case Study


Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Discounted
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10004216) -10004216 - -
Year 1 3468465 -6535751 3468465 0.9434 3272137
Year 2 3982781 -2552970 7451246 0.89 3544661
Year 3 3940009 1387039 11391255 0.8396 3308108
Year 4 3228361 4615400 14619616 0.7921 2557164
TOTAL 14619616 12682070


The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2677854

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. Payback Period
3. Internal Rate of Return
4. Net Present Value

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




Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of Yale University Investments Office

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 Finance & Accounting 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 Yale Endowment 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 Yale Endowment 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 %
Discounted
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10004216) -10004216 - -
Year 1 3468465 -6535751 3468465 0.8696 3016057
Year 2 3982781 -2552970 7451246 0.7561 3011555
Year 3 3940009 1387039 11391255 0.6575 2590620
Year 4 3228361 4615400 14619616 0.5718 1845826
TOTAL 10464057


The Net NPV after 4 years is 459841

(10464057 - 10004216 )






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 %
Discounted
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10004216) -10004216 - -
Year 1 3468465 -6535751 3468465 0.8333 2890388
Year 2 3982781 -2552970 7451246 0.6944 2765820
Year 3 3940009 1387039 11391255 0.5787 2280098
Year 4 3228361 4615400 14619616 0.4823 1556887
TOTAL 9493192


The Net NPV after 4 years is -511024

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9493192 - 10004216 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Yale Endowment 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 Yale Endowment has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Yale Endowment 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 Yale Endowment, then the stock price of the Yale Endowment 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 Yale Endowment 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 key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

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

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.

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

Josh Lerner, Jay O. Light (2018), "Yale University Investments Office Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.