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Sears, Roebuck and Co. vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Chinese Version 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 Sears, Roebuck and Co. vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Chinese Version case study


At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Sears, Roebuck and Co. vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Chinese Version case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Gregory S. Miller, Christopher F. Noe. The Sears, Roebuck and Co. vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Chinese Version (referred as “Roebuck Sears” 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, Growth strategy.

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 Sears, Roebuck and Co. vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Chinese Version Case Study


This case is designed to familiarize students with the use of financial ratios. Two retailers, Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., have a very similar value for return on equity (ROE) in the 1997 fiscal year. Students use the information in the case and the accompanying exhibits, which include financial statements as well as disclosures regarding corporate strategies and accounting policies for each company, to analyze the value creation process for each firm. This case provides a good introduction regarding the combination of such information to create a powerful tool for financial statement analysis. A rewritten version of an earlier case.


Case Authors : Gregory S. Miller, Christopher F. Noe

Topic : Finance & Accounting

Related Areas : Financial management, Growth strategy




Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Sears, Roebuck and Co. vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Chinese Version Case Study


Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Discounted
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10000855) -10000855 - -
Year 1 3452082 -6548773 3452082 0.9434 3256681
Year 2 3981300 -2567473 7433382 0.89 3543343
Year 3 3943181 1375708 11376563 0.8396 3310771
Year 4 3237882 4613590 14614445 0.7921 2564706
TOTAL 14614445 12675501


The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2674646

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

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 Roebuck Sears 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. Roebuck Sears 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 Sears, Roebuck and Co. vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Chinese Version

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 Roebuck Sears 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 Roebuck Sears 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 (10000855) -10000855 - -
Year 1 3452082 -6548773 3452082 0.8696 3001810
Year 2 3981300 -2567473 7433382 0.7561 3010435
Year 3 3943181 1375708 11376563 0.6575 2592706
Year 4 3237882 4613590 14614445 0.5718 1851270
TOTAL 10456220


The Net NPV after 4 years is 455365

(10456220 - 10000855 )






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 (10000855) -10000855 - -
Year 1 3452082 -6548773 3452082 0.8333 2876735
Year 2 3981300 -2567473 7433382 0.6944 2764792
Year 3 3943181 1375708 11376563 0.5787 2281933
Year 4 3237882 4613590 14614445 0.4823 1561479
TOTAL 9484939


The Net NPV after 4 years is -515916

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9484939 - 10000855 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Roebuck Sears 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 Roebuck Sears has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Roebuck Sears 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 Roebuck Sears, then the stock price of the Roebuck Sears 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 Roebuck Sears 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 –

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 can impact the cash flow of the project.

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

Gregory S. Miller, Christopher F. Noe (2018), "Sears, Roebuck and Co. vs. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Chinese Version Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.