Trust for Public Land 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 Trust for Public Land case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Trust for Public Land case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Christopher Canellos, Gregory J. Scott. The Trust for Public Land (referred as “Tpl Land” 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, Social enterprise, Sustainability.

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 Trust for Public Land Case Study

In April 1999, Will Rogers and Bob McIntyre, the president and chief financial officer of the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a nonprofit organization that acquired private land for transfer to public use, met to discuss the latest internal auditors' report. How could they best analyze the findings to explain to TPL's board why the results may not appear quite as good as they actually were? Total net assets had grown from $93 million to $147 million, a 58% increase from 1998 to 1999. However, for the second year running, TPL had shown an annual deficit in its cash flow from operating activities of roughly $11 million. As TPL continued to build its activities to protect more land, Rogers and McIntyre now had to ask whether there might be pressure to put a temporary no-growth policy in place regarding land acquisitions. But if they did this, would they fail to protect certain key pieces of property and possibly alienate donors, who had been impressed by TPL's aggressive program of land acquisitions? And was it really necessary? Alternatively, could TPL reinvigorate existing revenue streams and quickly bring the cash flow from operating activities into balance as in previous years?

Case Authors : Christopher Canellos, Gregory J. Scott

Topic : Finance & Accounting

Related Areas : Financial management, Social enterprise, Sustainability

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Trust for Public Land Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10004815) -10004815 - -
Year 1 3454630 -6550185 3454630 0.9434 3259085
Year 2 3969054 -2581131 7423684 0.89 3532444
Year 3 3968318 1387187 11392002 0.8396 3331876
Year 4 3239911 4627098 14631913 0.7921 2566313
TOTAL 14631913 12689718

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2684903

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. Internal Rate of Return
3. Payback Period
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. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Tpl Land 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. Tpl Land 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 Trust for Public Land

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 Tpl Land 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 Tpl Land 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 (10004815) -10004815 - -
Year 1 3454630 -6550185 3454630 0.8696 3004026
Year 2 3969054 -2581131 7423684 0.7561 3001175
Year 3 3968318 1387187 11392002 0.6575 2609234
Year 4 3239911 4627098 14631913 0.5718 1852430
TOTAL 10466864

The Net NPV after 4 years is 462049

(10466864 - 10004815 )

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 (10004815) -10004815 - -
Year 1 3454630 -6550185 3454630 0.8333 2878858
Year 2 3969054 -2581131 7423684 0.6944 2756288
Year 3 3968318 1387187 11392002 0.5787 2296480
Year 4 3239911 4627098 14631913 0.4823 1562457
TOTAL 9494083

The Net NPV after 4 years is -510732

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9494083 - 10004815 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Tpl Land 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 Tpl Land has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Tpl Land 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 Tpl Land, then the stock price of the Tpl Land 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 Tpl Land 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 can impact the cash flow of the project.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

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 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

Christopher Canellos, Gregory J. Scott (2018), "Trust for Public Land Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.