The Melbourne City Link 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 Melbourne City Link case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. The Melbourne City Link case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Jay H. Walder. The The Melbourne City Link (referred as “Project Melbourne” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Finance & Accounting. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Financial management, Government, International business, Strategic planning.

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 Melbourne City Link Case Study

The Melbourne City Link, a $2 billion privately-funded highway project, was one of the first fully electronic toll roads in the world. While the government of the State of Victoria specified this innovative tolling system in the tender for the project, it left the implementation and administration to the consortium that was selected to finance, design, build, and operate the highway. This case allows students to focus on the financing of a large-scale privately financed infrastructure project through the capital markets. It is designed to teach students about the allocation of risks that are customary in project financing arrangements where lenders have limited or no recourse to the project sponsors. By analyzing the deal structure, students can assess how specific risks were allocated to the project sponsors, construction contractors, equity investors, the banking syndicate, and the government. HKS Case Number 1539.0

Case Authors : Jay H. Walder

Topic : Finance & Accounting

Related Areas : Financial management, Government, International business, Strategic planning

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for The Melbourne City Link Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10002790) -10002790 - -
Year 1 3446430 -6556360 3446430 0.9434 3251349
Year 2 3957724 -2598636 7404154 0.89 3522360
Year 3 3965276 1366640 11369430 0.8396 3329322
Year 4 3248885 4615525 14618315 0.7921 2573421
TOTAL 14618315 12676453

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2673663

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. Net Present Value
2. Profitability Index
3. Payback Period
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 Project Melbourne 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. Project Melbourne 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 The Melbourne City Link

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 Finance & Accounting 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 Project Melbourne 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 Project Melbourne 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 (10002790) -10002790 - -
Year 1 3446430 -6556360 3446430 0.8696 2996896
Year 2 3957724 -2598636 7404154 0.7561 2992608
Year 3 3965276 1366640 11369430 0.6575 2607233
Year 4 3248885 4615525 14618315 0.5718 1857561
TOTAL 10454297

The Net NPV after 4 years is 451507

(10454297 - 10002790 )

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 (10002790) -10002790 - -
Year 1 3446430 -6556360 3446430 0.8333 2872025
Year 2 3957724 -2598636 7404154 0.6944 2748419
Year 3 3965276 1366640 11369430 0.5787 2294720
Year 4 3248885 4615525 14618315 0.4823 1566785
TOTAL 9481949

The Net NPV after 4 years is -520841

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9481949 - 10002790 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Project Melbourne 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 Project Melbourne has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Project Melbourne 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 Project Melbourne, then the stock price of the Project Melbourne 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 Project Melbourne 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 key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

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.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What can impact the cash flow of 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

Jay H. Walder (2018), "The Melbourne City Link Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.