ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell: The Tale of Two Projects in Sakhalin 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 ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell: The Tale of Two Projects in Sakhalin case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell: The Tale of Two Projects in Sakhalin case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Kannan Ramaswamy. The ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell: The Tale of Two Projects in Sakhalin (referred as “Russia Sakhalin” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Strategy & Execution. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, .

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 ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell: The Tale of Two Projects in Sakhalin Case Study

Russia has emerged as a dominant player especially in the natural gas segment of the global oil and gas industry. Its position of power has been cemented over the last decade on a variety of fronts ranging from the execution of the first offshore project, the first LNG project, the first Arctic exploration program, and the emergence of global giants, namely Gazprom and Rosneft, that have exerted considerable influence in attracting global super majors to Russia. The case study explores the execution of the two major Sakhalin projects that were instrumental in establishing Russia's position as a pre-eminent source of natural gas. These projects were among the earliest ones on a global scale that involved multiple global partners and were executed in a forbidding part of the country, offshore Russia in the Sea of Okhotsk. Both development deals were struck when Russia was in the midst of significant economic chaos following the breakup of the USSR into constituent republics. This period in Russian history was marked by significant opportunities as well as significant risks.

Case Authors : Kannan Ramaswamy

Topic : Strategy & Execution

Related Areas :

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell: The Tale of Two Projects in Sakhalin Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10029509) -10029509 - -
Year 1 3447313 -6582196 3447313 0.9434 3252182
Year 2 3972342 -2609854 7419655 0.89 3535370
Year 3 3969713 1359859 11389368 0.8396 3333048
Year 4 3250589 4610448 14639957 0.7921 2574771
TOTAL 14639957 12695371

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2665862

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. Profitability Index
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. Russia Sakhalin 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 Russia Sakhalin 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 ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell: The Tale of Two Projects in Sakhalin

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 Strategy & Execution 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 Russia Sakhalin 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 Russia Sakhalin 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 (10029509) -10029509 - -
Year 1 3447313 -6582196 3447313 0.8696 2997663
Year 2 3972342 -2609854 7419655 0.7561 3003661
Year 3 3969713 1359859 11389368 0.6575 2610151
Year 4 3250589 4610448 14639957 0.5718 1858535
TOTAL 10470010

The Net NPV after 4 years is 440501

(10470010 - 10029509 )

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 (10029509) -10029509 - -
Year 1 3447313 -6582196 3447313 0.8333 2872761
Year 2 3972342 -2609854 7419655 0.6944 2758571
Year 3 3969713 1359859 11389368 0.5787 2297288
Year 4 3250589 4610448 14639957 0.4823 1567607
TOTAL 9496226

The Net NPV after 4 years is -533283

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9496226 - 10029509 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Russia Sakhalin 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 Russia Sakhalin has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Russia Sakhalin 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 Russia Sakhalin, then the stock price of the Russia Sakhalin 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 Russia Sakhalin 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.

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 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

Kannan Ramaswamy (2018), "ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell: The Tale of Two Projects in Sakhalin Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.