Uber vs. Didi: The Race for China's Ride-hailing Market 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 Uber vs. Didi: The Race for China's Ride-hailing Market case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Uber vs. Didi: The Race for China's Ride-hailing Market case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Guoli Chen, Kuangzhen Wu, Tony Tong, Xiaohua Su. The Uber vs. Didi: The Race for China's Ride-hailing Market (referred as “Didi Uber” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Strategy & Execution. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Competitive strategy, IT, Marketing.

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 Uber vs. Didi: The Race for China's Ride-hailing Market Case Study

As a result of fast-developing mobile technology, companies must deal with increasing business complexity in a high-velocity environment. The Uber vs. Didi case illustrates a wide range of strategic issues that a company may face when creating a new business model, generating unprecedented value for customers, challenging traditional business and regulatory frameworks, and expanding into an emerging market to compete with local rivals. The case is about Uber's competition with Didi, its local rival in China. The first part describes the traditional taxi industry, using the illustration of the US taxi medallion system. It explains Uber's platform-based business model, value innovation, challenge to government regulation, and surge pricing model, as well as associated ethical issues. The second part describes the emergence of Didi in China and how it challenged Uber when it entered China's ride-hailing market. Unlike its rapid expansion in the US and other countries, Uber had a bumpy ride in China. In June 2015, Didi was reported to have 80.2% of the market, outperforming Uber's meagre 11.5%. With China's internet giants joining the battle as strategic investors-Baidu (backing Uber), Alibaba and Tencent (both backing Didi), and from Silicon Valley-Apple (backing Didi), the race between Uber and Didi has far-reaching implications.

Case Authors : Guoli Chen, Kuangzhen Wu, Tony Tong, Xiaohua Su

Topic : Strategy & Execution

Related Areas : Competitive strategy, IT, Marketing

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Uber vs. Didi: The Race for China's Ride-hailing Market Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10012175) -10012175 - -
Year 1 3443761 -6568414 3443761 0.9434 3248831
Year 2 3969184 -2599230 7412945 0.89 3532560
Year 3 3959417 1360187 11372362 0.8396 3324403
Year 4 3232731 4592918 14605093 0.7921 2560626
TOTAL 14605093 12666419

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2654244

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

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 Didi Uber 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. Didi Uber 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 Uber vs. Didi: The Race for China's Ride-hailing Market

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 Didi Uber 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 Didi Uber 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 (10012175) -10012175 - -
Year 1 3443761 -6568414 3443761 0.8696 2994575
Year 2 3969184 -2599230 7412945 0.7561 3001273
Year 3 3959417 1360187 11372362 0.6575 2603381
Year 4 3232731 4592918 14605093 0.5718 1848324
TOTAL 10447554

The Net NPV after 4 years is 435379

(10447554 - 10012175 )

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 (10012175) -10012175 - -
Year 1 3443761 -6568414 3443761 0.8333 2869801
Year 2 3969184 -2599230 7412945 0.6944 2756378
Year 3 3959417 1360187 11372362 0.5787 2291329
Year 4 3232731 4592918 14605093 0.4823 1558995
TOTAL 9476502

The Net NPV after 4 years is -535673

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9476502 - 10012175 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Didi Uber 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 Didi Uber has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Didi Uber 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 Didi Uber, then the stock price of the Didi Uber 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 Didi Uber 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 will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

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.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

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

Guoli Chen, Kuangzhen Wu, Tony Tong, Xiaohua Su (2018), "Uber vs. Didi: The Race for China's Ride-hailing Market Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.