Wired Wellington: The Info City Project and the City Link Network 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 Wired Wellington: The Info City Project and the City Link Network case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Wired Wellington: The Info City Project and the City Link Network case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Sid L. Huff. The Wired Wellington: The Info City Project and the City Link Network (referred as “City Info” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Technology & Operations. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, IT.

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 Wired Wellington: The Info City Project and the City Link Network Case Study

As a central component of its Vision 2020 strategy, the city of Wellington, New Zealand has developed preliminary plans to transform itself into a "wired city." The overarching project was called Info City. Info City actually consisted of a collection of sub-projects, each focusing on a different way in which the city could promote and foster the use of information technology to help move toward the "2020 Vision." One of the sub-projects was called City Link. The objective of City Link was to create a high-speed digital communications infrastructure for the downtown business district. Fiber optic cable was to be used to "wire up," simply and inexpensively, the city's downtown businesses, to provide a backbone network that businesses could utilize, however they wished, to make themselves more competitive. A company had recently been formed to bring together a number of parties interested in advancing the project. A telecommunications architecture was being developed, and plans for stringing cable were underway. While Richard Naylor, the project's champion, wasn't sure exactly how the city's businesses would use the cable, he was confident that once the infrastructure was in place, ideas for its utilization would readily emerge. This case provides a setting for exploring the issue of cities "competing," much as do businesses, and the ways in which IT can be utilized in the competition. Also raises interesting social policy questions about who should pay for such an undertaking, who should benefit, and so on.

Case Authors : Sid L. Huff

Topic : Technology & Operations

Related Areas : IT

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Wired Wellington: The Info City Project and the City Link Network Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10008133) -10008133 - -
Year 1 3470633 -6537500 3470633 0.9434 3274182
Year 2 3970637 -2566863 7441270 0.89 3533853
Year 3 3957072 1390209 11398342 0.8396 3322434
Year 4 3241073 4631282 14639415 0.7921 2567233
TOTAL 14639415 12697702

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2689569

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

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. City Info 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 City Info 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 Wired Wellington: The Info City Project and the City Link Network

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 Technology & Operations 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 City Info 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 City Info 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 (10008133) -10008133 - -
Year 1 3470633 -6537500 3470633 0.8696 3017942
Year 2 3970637 -2566863 7441270 0.7561 3002372
Year 3 3957072 1390209 11398342 0.6575 2601839
Year 4 3241073 4631282 14639415 0.5718 1853094
TOTAL 10475247

The Net NPV after 4 years is 467114

(10475247 - 10008133 )

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 (10008133) -10008133 - -
Year 1 3470633 -6537500 3470633 0.8333 2892194
Year 2 3970637 -2566863 7441270 0.6944 2757387
Year 3 3957072 1390209 11398342 0.5787 2289972
Year 4 3241073 4631282 14639415 0.4823 1563017
TOTAL 9502571

The Net NPV after 4 years is -505562

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9502571 - 10008133 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of City Info 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 City Info has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at City Info 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 City Info, then the stock price of the City Info 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 City Info 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 –

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

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 are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

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

Sid L. Huff (2018), "Wired Wellington: The Info City Project and the City Link Network Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.