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The American Repertory Theater 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 The American Repertory Theater case study


At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. The American Repertory Theater case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Rohit Deshpande, Allen S. Grossman, Ryan Johnson. The The American Repertory Theater (referred as “A.r.t Theater” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Strategy & Execution. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Change management, 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 The American Repertory Theater Case Study


When Diane Paulus, artistic director and CEO of the American Repertory Theater (A.R.T. - also seen spelled as American Repertory Theatre) first started in 2008, she attracted media coverage around an aesthetic that aimed to give the audience more ownership over the theater experience, excited theatergoers by experimenting with new venues and received critical recognition for the breadth and range of the work she staged. Paulus also recognized the changing realities in theater, which included dropping subscription numbers and an increase in single ticket buyers. Paulus, inspired by the mission of the A.R.T. - to expand the boundaries of theater - hastened a shift in the A.R.T. business model. Her new plans included operating two unique segmented venues, creating and presenting varied content that aimed to be both challenging and popular, and driving a sales and marketing campaign focused on single ticket buyers, memberships and dynamic pricing. Early results showed some promise; the A.R.T. was closer to break-even than in previous years. However, some questioned if the A.R.T. was beginning to look like a commercial theater, focused on presenting theater that sold, rather than truly expanding boundaries. Despite the questioning, Paulus remained committed to fulfilling her vision of the A.R.T. mission in order to solidify A.R.T. as a leading and financially stable not-for-profit regional theater.


Case Authors : Rohit Deshpande, Allen S. Grossman, Ryan Johnson

Topic : Strategy & Execution

Related Areas : Change management, Marketing




Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for The American Repertory Theater Case Study


Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Discounted
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10024119) -10024119 - -
Year 1 3451665 -6572454 3451665 0.9434 3256288
Year 2 3977449 -2595005 7429114 0.89 3539915
Year 3 3938942 1343937 11368056 0.8396 3307212
Year 4 3246415 4590352 14614471 0.7921 2571465
TOTAL 14614471 12674880


The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2650761

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. A.r.t Theater 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 A.r.t Theater 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 The American Repertory Theater

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 A.r.t Theater 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 A.r.t Theater 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 (10024119) -10024119 - -
Year 1 3451665 -6572454 3451665 0.8696 3001448
Year 2 3977449 -2595005 7429114 0.7561 3007523
Year 3 3938942 1343937 11368056 0.6575 2589918
Year 4 3246415 4590352 14614471 0.5718 1856148
TOTAL 10455037


The Net NPV after 4 years is 430918

(10455037 - 10024119 )






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 (10024119) -10024119 - -
Year 1 3451665 -6572454 3451665 0.8333 2876388
Year 2 3977449 -2595005 7429114 0.6944 2762117
Year 3 3938942 1343937 11368056 0.5787 2279480
Year 4 3246415 4590352 14614471 0.4823 1565594
TOTAL 9483579


The Net NPV after 4 years is -540540

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9483579 - 10024119 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of A.r.t Theater 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 A.r.t Theater has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at A.r.t Theater 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 A.r.t Theater, then the stock price of the A.r.t Theater 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 A.r.t Theater 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.

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.

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

Rohit Deshpande, Allen S. Grossman, Ryan Johnson (2018), "The American Repertory Theater Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.