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Northern Drilling Inc.: The Mond Nickel Contract Decision - A Tactical Dilemma in a Growth Strategy 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 Northern Drilling Inc.: The Mond Nickel Contract Decision - A Tactical Dilemma in a Growth Strategy case study


At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Northern Drilling Inc.: The Mond Nickel Contract Decision - A Tactical Dilemma in a Growth Strategy case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Michael Taylor, Robert Bremner. The Northern Drilling Inc.: The Mond Nickel Contract Decision - A Tactical Dilemma in a Growth Strategy (referred as “Northern's Nickel” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Strategy & Execution. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, 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 Northern Drilling Inc.: The Mond Nickel Contract Decision - A Tactical Dilemma in a Growth Strategy Case Study


Northern Drilling Inc., an exploration diamond-drilling contractor, has been asked to tender a bid for a lucrative, highly complex contract with Mond Nickel. Northern has no drills or crew currently available to work on the contract, which requires experienced drillers. Compounding the issue is a shortage of skilled labour in the industry. At the same time, Northern's biggest client, Noranda Nickel, is seeing poor geological results on a job in the same area. Northern's management needs to decide whether to incur additional costs and leave a capacity cushion in an effort to maintain its excellent relationship with its current client, or whether it should instead utilize the drills on the new job. The primary issue facing Northern's management is whether Northern can handle the new contract, both financially and technically, without compromising the current job.


Case Authors : Michael Taylor, Robert Bremner

Topic : Strategy & Execution

Related Areas : Strategy




Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Northern Drilling Inc.: The Mond Nickel Contract Decision - A Tactical Dilemma in a Growth Strategy Case Study


Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Discounted
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10010418) -10010418 - -
Year 1 3462993 -6547425 3462993 0.9434 3266975
Year 2 3977862 -2569563 7440855 0.89 3540283
Year 3 3938970 1369407 11379825 0.8396 3307235
Year 4 3245776 4615183 14625601 0.7921 2570959
TOTAL 14625601 12685451


The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2675033

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. Internal Rate of Return
2. Payback Period
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. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Northern's Nickel 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. Northern's Nickel 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 Northern Drilling Inc.: The Mond Nickel Contract Decision - A Tactical Dilemma in a Growth Strategy

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 Northern's Nickel 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 Northern's Nickel 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 (10010418) -10010418 - -
Year 1 3462993 -6547425 3462993 0.8696 3011298
Year 2 3977862 -2569563 7440855 0.7561 3007835
Year 3 3938970 1369407 11379825 0.6575 2589937
Year 4 3245776 4615183 14625601 0.5718 1855783
TOTAL 10464853


The Net NPV after 4 years is 454435

(10464853 - 10010418 )






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 (10010418) -10010418 - -
Year 1 3462993 -6547425 3462993 0.8333 2885828
Year 2 3977862 -2569563 7440855 0.6944 2762404
Year 3 3938970 1369407 11379825 0.5787 2279497
Year 4 3245776 4615183 14625601 0.4823 1565285
TOTAL 9493014


The Net NPV after 4 years is -517404

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9493014 - 10010418 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Northern's Nickel 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 Northern's Nickel has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Northern's Nickel 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 Northern's Nickel, then the stock price of the Northern's Nickel 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 Northern's Nickel 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 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.

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.

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

Michael Taylor, Robert Bremner (2018), "Northern Drilling Inc.: The Mond Nickel Contract Decision - A Tactical Dilemma in a Growth Strategy Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.