Katharine Graham 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 Katharine Graham case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Katharine Graham case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Kathleen L. McGinn, Lisa Gunther, Dina Witter. The Katharine Graham (referred as “Graham's Graham” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Leadership & Managing People. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Influence, Leadership, Networking, Organizational culture.

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 Katharine Graham Case Study

Details the career of Katharine Graham of the Washington Post Co., a pioneer in her field and one of the first high-profile women to lead a major public company. Her story is a unique example of how power and expertise are built over time, and differs from those of other business leaders in that she was unexpectedly thrust into a leadership position. Though Graham could have been a figurehead leader of the Washington Post Co., she gradually became a powerful national player: a publisher and CEO in more than title. Graham's strong values impel many of her decisions throughout the course of her career and help her through times of uncertainty. Her values are a stark contrast to strictly data-based decision making. Explores Graham's ability to master the newspaper business and succeed in a man's world. Additionally, Graham's unique ability to adapt her influence style in different social and career networks is also explored, as the distinction between Graham's employees, mentors, and friends is often blurred.

Case Authors : Kathleen L. McGinn, Lisa Gunther, Dina Witter

Topic : Leadership & Managing People

Related Areas : Influence, Leadership, Networking, Organizational culture

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Katharine Graham Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10015277) -10015277 - -
Year 1 3459496 -6555781 3459496 0.9434 3263675
Year 2 3958210 -2597571 7417706 0.89 3522793
Year 3 3951190 1353619 11368896 0.8396 3317495
Year 4 3233351 4586970 14602247 0.7921 2561117
TOTAL 14602247 12665080

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2649803

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. Internal Rate of Return
2. Profitability Index
3. Net Present Value
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. Graham's Graham 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 Graham's Graham 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 Katharine Graham

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 Leadership & Managing People 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 Graham's Graham 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 Graham's Graham 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 (10015277) -10015277 - -
Year 1 3459496 -6555781 3459496 0.8696 3008257
Year 2 3958210 -2597571 7417706 0.7561 2992975
Year 3 3951190 1353619 11368896 0.6575 2597972
Year 4 3233351 4586970 14602247 0.5718 1848679
TOTAL 10447883

The Net NPV after 4 years is 432606

(10447883 - 10015277 )

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 (10015277) -10015277 - -
Year 1 3459496 -6555781 3459496 0.8333 2882913
Year 2 3958210 -2597571 7417706 0.6944 2748757
Year 3 3951190 1353619 11368896 0.5787 2286568
Year 4 3233351 4586970 14602247 0.4823 1559293
TOTAL 9477532

The Net NPV after 4 years is -537745

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9477532 - 10015277 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Graham's Graham 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 Graham's Graham has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Graham's Graham 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 Graham's Graham, then the stock price of the Graham's Graham 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 Graham's Graham 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 are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

Understanding of risks involved in 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 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

Kathleen L. McGinn, Lisa Gunther, Dina Witter (2018), "Katharine Graham Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.