Seacoast Science Center: Sailing the Shoals 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 Seacoast Science Center: Sailing the Shoals case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Seacoast Science Center: Sailing the Shoals case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Margaret J. Naumes, Wendy W. Lull. The Seacoast Science Center: Sailing the Shoals (referred as “Ssc Seacoast” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Strategy & Execution. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Pricing, 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 Seacoast Science Center: Sailing the Shoals Case Study

Wendy Lull, President of the non-profit Seacoast Science Center (SSC), was considering a substantial increase in the admission fee for the SSC facility in early 2008. The SSC's mission, "To create connections to nature through personal experience," was carried out through educational programs and exhibits targeting all ages. A number of new exhibits brought the flora and fauna of the seacoast of New Hampshire vividly to life, and illustrated many aspects of humans' interactions with the sea. Lull reviewed the changes since the SSC had become independent in 2001. There had been two major expansions, the most recent being an interactive learning studio that had opened in November 2007. She felt that the fee increase would help to cover a persistent $50,000 deficit in operating income. However, a fee increase might reduce visitation, which was already growing slowly, at best. A more fundamental strategic question might be whether the SSC should seek to grow, and if so, how.

Case Authors : Margaret J. Naumes, Wendy W. Lull

Topic : Strategy & Execution

Related Areas : Pricing, Strategy

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Seacoast Science Center: Sailing the Shoals Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10021954) -10021954 - -
Year 1 3459722 -6562232 3459722 0.9434 3263889
Year 2 3966714 -2595518 7426436 0.89 3530361
Year 3 3968446 1372928 11394882 0.8396 3331984
Year 4 3234324 4607252 14629206 0.7921 2561888
TOTAL 14629206 12688121

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2666167

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. Profitability Index
3. Net Present Value
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 Ssc Seacoast 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. Ssc Seacoast 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 Seacoast Science Center: Sailing the Shoals

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 Ssc Seacoast 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 Ssc Seacoast 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 (10021954) -10021954 - -
Year 1 3459722 -6562232 3459722 0.8696 3008454
Year 2 3966714 -2595518 7426436 0.7561 2999406
Year 3 3968446 1372928 11394882 0.6575 2609318
Year 4 3234324 4607252 14629206 0.5718 1849235
TOTAL 10466412

The Net NPV after 4 years is 444458

(10466412 - 10021954 )

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 (10021954) -10021954 - -
Year 1 3459722 -6562232 3459722 0.8333 2883102
Year 2 3966714 -2595518 7426436 0.6944 2754663
Year 3 3968446 1372928 11394882 0.5787 2296554
Year 4 3234324 4607252 14629206 0.4823 1559763
TOTAL 9494081

The Net NPV after 4 years is -527873

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9494081 - 10021954 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Ssc Seacoast 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 Ssc Seacoast has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Ssc Seacoast 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 Ssc Seacoast, then the stock price of the Ssc Seacoast 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 Ssc Seacoast 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 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.

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

Margaret J. Naumes, Wendy W. Lull (2018), "Seacoast Science Center: Sailing the Shoals Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.