Internet Capital Group 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 Internet Capital Group case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Internet Capital Group case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by George Parker, Victoria Chang. The Internet Capital Group (referred as “Icg Icg's” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Innovation & Entrepreneurship. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, IT, Venture capital.

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 Internet Capital Group Case Study

Wayne, Pennsylvania-based Internet Capital Group (ICG), a business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce holding company, was one of the most anticipated IPOs in 1999. ICG's goal was to build companies that could obtain number one or two positions in their respective markets by delivering the software and services to help businesses increase efficiency and reduce costs. ICG's operating strategy was to 1) identify the most attractive B2B companies/opportunities, 2) acquire ownership interests (preferably 40% or greater) of partner companies (companies ICG invested in), 3) provide operational and strategic guidance through its advisory board and management team, and 4) further collaboration within the partner company network via its central "hub" position. In 1999, ICG's shares closed up more than 100% in its first trading day, giving it an instant market cap of $3 billion. At its high point in December 1999, it had a market cap of $52 billion. By 1999, ICG had stakes in approximately 30 online B2B businesses (45 by the end of 1999, 50 by May 2000, and 77 by October 2000). By 2000, however, things had changed for the company. In November 2000, ICG reported a third-quarter loss of $263.9 million, compared with a loss of $15.3 million the same quarter a year before. During that time, it also laid off 35% of its staff (around 50 employees). Moreover, its $4.48 share price was off 98% from its year high, taking its market cap down to $1.39 billion. By September 2001, ICG's stock bottomed out at $.34 and eventually leveled out at $.77 in March 2002. The same industry analysts who had once touted ICG as a big winner were suddenly downgrading the stock, the concept, and the future prospects of ICG.

Case Authors : George Parker, Victoria Chang

Topic : Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Related Areas : IT, Venture capital

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Internet Capital Group Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10027420) -10027420 - -
Year 1 3444225 -6583195 3444225 0.9434 3249269
Year 2 3976009 -2607186 7420234 0.89 3538634
Year 3 3974122 1366936 11394356 0.8396 3336749
Year 4 3233966 4600902 14628322 0.7921 2561604
TOTAL 14628322 12686256

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2658836

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. Icg Icg's 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 Icg Icg's 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 Internet Capital Group

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 Innovation & Entrepreneurship 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 Icg Icg's 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 Icg Icg's 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 (10027420) -10027420 - -
Year 1 3444225 -6583195 3444225 0.8696 2994978
Year 2 3976009 -2607186 7420234 0.7561 3006434
Year 3 3974122 1366936 11394356 0.6575 2613050
Year 4 3233966 4600902 14628322 0.5718 1849031
TOTAL 10463493

The Net NPV after 4 years is 436073

(10463493 - 10027420 )

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 (10027420) -10027420 - -
Year 1 3444225 -6583195 3444225 0.8333 2870188
Year 2 3976009 -2607186 7420234 0.6944 2761117
Year 3 3974122 1366936 11394356 0.5787 2299839
Year 4 3233966 4600902 14628322 0.4823 1559590
TOTAL 9490734

The Net NPV after 4 years is -536686

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9490734 - 10027420 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Icg Icg's 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 Icg Icg's has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Icg Icg's 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 Icg Icg's, then the stock price of the Icg Icg's 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 Icg Icg's 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 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.

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

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

George Parker, Victoria Chang (2018), "Internet Capital Group Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.