Research In Motion: The Mobile OS Platform War 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 Research In Motion: The Mobile OS Platform War case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Research In Motion: The Mobile OS Platform War case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Alan MacCormack, Brian Dunn, Chris F. Kemerer. The Research In Motion: The Mobile OS Platform War (referred as “Rim Motion” 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, Product development, 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 Research In Motion: The Mobile OS Platform War Case Study

The case describes competition in the market for smartphones in the US, and the position of one player, Research in Motion (RIM) who manufacture the popular Blackberry line of products. Early in 2011, RIM is in trouble. Its stock price has plummeted, amidst poor business results, and its future as an independent company is in doubt. A new Chief Executive Officer, Thorsten Heins, must decide how to position the company for the future. The case allows students to understand the strategic dynamics in platform-based industries in general, and to explore more specifically how a firm that led the industry in 2007 could fall to earth so dramatically four years later. The case is based upon data and information from public sources.

Case Authors : Alan MacCormack, Brian Dunn, Chris F. Kemerer

Topic : Technology & Operations

Related Areas : IT, Product development, Strategy

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Research In Motion: The Mobile OS Platform War Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10028478) -10028478 - -
Year 1 3445535 -6582943 3445535 0.9434 3250505
Year 2 3954075 -2628868 7399610 0.89 3519113
Year 3 3957725 1328857 11357335 0.8396 3322982
Year 4 3238749 4567606 14596084 0.7921 2565393
TOTAL 14596084 12657992

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2629514

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. Net Present Value
3. Profitability Index
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. Magnitude of both incoming and outgoing cash flows – Projects can be capital intensive, time intensive, or both. Rim Motion 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 Rim Motion 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 Research In Motion: The Mobile OS Platform War

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 Rim Motion 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 Rim Motion 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 (10028478) -10028478 - -
Year 1 3445535 -6582943 3445535 0.8696 2996117
Year 2 3954075 -2628868 7399610 0.7561 2989849
Year 3 3957725 1328857 11357335 0.6575 2602268
Year 4 3238749 4567606 14596084 0.5718 1851765
TOTAL 10440000

The Net NPV after 4 years is 411522

(10440000 - 10028478 )

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 (10028478) -10028478 - -
Year 1 3445535 -6582943 3445535 0.8333 2871279
Year 2 3954075 -2628868 7399610 0.6944 2745885
Year 3 3957725 1328857 11357335 0.5787 2290350
Year 4 3238749 4567606 14596084 0.4823 1561897
TOTAL 9469411

The Net NPV after 4 years is -559067

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9469411 - 10028478 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Rim Motion 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 Rim Motion has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Rim Motion 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 Rim Motion, then the stock price of the Rim Motion 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 Rim Motion 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 can impact the cash flow of the project.

Understanding of risks involved in 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.

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

Alan MacCormack, Brian Dunn, Chris F. Kemerer (2018), "Research In Motion: The Mobile OS Platform War Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.