GMAC: The Pipeline 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 GMAC: The Pipeline case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. GMAC: The Pipeline case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Martin N. Davidson, Gerry Yemen. The GMAC: The Pipeline (referred as “Gmac College” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Communication. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Talent management.

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 GMAC: The Pipeline Case Study

To heighten awareness of an MBA degree as a viable option for minority students, this case presents a fictional account of two college friends weighing their postgraduate options. With the goal of increasing the pipeline of graduates from underrepresented groups-mainly African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans-who opt to pursue advanced degree in business, a team of 16 strategic partners joined forces with Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), the nonprofit developer of standardized admission exams for business school. Data from their investigations are discussed in a manner relevant and accessible to high school and college students. Suitable for high school college preparation and undergraduate level classes, this case will help generate ideas about what it would take to get more minority students into graduate business programs.

Case Authors : Martin N. Davidson, Gerry Yemen

Topic : Communication

Related Areas : Talent management

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for GMAC: The Pipeline Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10013179) -10013179 - -
Year 1 3456677 -6556502 3456677 0.9434 3261016
Year 2 3969525 -2586977 7426202 0.89 3532863
Year 3 3961394 1374417 11387596 0.8396 3326063
Year 4 3250362 4624779 14637958 0.7921 2574591
TOTAL 14637958 12694533

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2681354

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. Internal Rate of Return
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. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Gmac College 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. Gmac College 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 GMAC: The Pipeline

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 Communication 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 Gmac College 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 Gmac College 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 (10013179) -10013179 - -
Year 1 3456677 -6556502 3456677 0.8696 3005806
Year 2 3969525 -2586977 7426202 0.7561 3001531
Year 3 3961394 1374417 11387596 0.6575 2604681
Year 4 3250362 4624779 14637958 0.5718 1858405
TOTAL 10470423

The Net NPV after 4 years is 457244

(10470423 - 10013179 )

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 (10013179) -10013179 - -
Year 1 3456677 -6556502 3456677 0.8333 2880564
Year 2 3969525 -2586977 7426202 0.6944 2756615
Year 3 3961394 1374417 11387596 0.5787 2292473
Year 4 3250362 4624779 14637958 0.4823 1567497
TOTAL 9497149

The Net NPV after 4 years is -516030

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9497149 - 10013179 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Gmac College 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 Gmac College has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Gmac College 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 Gmac College, then the stock price of the Gmac College 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 Gmac College 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.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

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 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.

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

Martin N. Davidson, Gerry Yemen (2018), "GMAC: The Pipeline Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.