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Finance Revision 003

1.    A payback period less than the project’s life means that the NPV is positive for a zero discount rate, but nothing more definitive can be said. For discount rates greater than zero, the payback period will still be less than the project’s life, but the NPV may be positive, zero, or negative, depending on whether the discount rate is less than, equal to, or greater than the IRR. The discounted payback includes the effect of the relevant discount rate. If a project’s discounted payback period is less than the project’s life, it must be the case that NPV is positive.

2.    If a project has a positive NPV for a certain discount rate, then it will also have a positive NPV for a zero discount rate; thus, the payback period must be less than the project life. Since discounted payback is calculated at the same discount rate as is NPV, if NPV is positive, the discounted payback period must be less than the project’s life. If NPV is positive, then the present value of future cash inflows is greater than the initial investment cost; thus PI must be greater than 1. If NPV is positive for a certain discount rate R, then it will be zero for some larger discount rate R*; thus the IRR must be greater than the required return.

3.    a.     Payback period is simply the accounting break-even point of a series of cash flows. To actually compute the payback period, it is assumed that any cash flow occurring during a given period is realized continuously throughout the period, and not at a single point in time. The payback is then the point in time for the series of cash flows when the initial cash outlays are fully recovered. Given some predetermined cutoff for the payback period, the decision rule is to accept projects that payback before this cutoff, and reject projects that take longer to payback.

       b.     The worst problem associated with payback period is that it ignores the time value of money. In addition, the selection of a hurdle point for payback period is an arbitrary exercise that lacks any steadfast rule or method. The payback period is biased towards short-term projects; it fully ignores any cash flows that occur after the cutoff point.

       c.     Despite its shortcomings, payback is often used because (1) the analysis is straightforward and simple and (2) accounting numbers and estimates are readily available. Materiality consider-ations often warrant a payback analysis as sufficient; maintenance projects are another example where the detailed analysis of other methods is often not needed. Since payback is biased towards liquidity, it may be a useful and appropriate analysis method for short-term projects where cash management is most important.

4.    a.     The discounted payback is calculated the same as is regular payback, with the exception that each cash flow in the series is first converted to its present value. Thus discounted payback provides a measure of financial/economic break-even because of this discounting, just as regular payback provides a measure of accounting break-even because it does not discount the cash flows. Given some predetermined cutoff for the discounted payback period, the decision rule is to accept projects whose discounted cash flows payback before this cutoff period, and to reject all other projects.

       b.     The primary disadvantage to using the discounted payback method is that it ignores all cash flows that occur after the cutoff date, thus biasing this criterion towards short-term projects. As a result, the method may reject projects that in fact have positive NPVs, or it may accept projects with large future cash outlays resulting in negative NPVs. In addition, the selection of a cutoff point is again an arbitrary exercise.

       c.     Discounted payback is an improvement on regular payback because it takes into account the time value of money. For conventional cash flows and strictly positive discount rates, the discounted payback will always be greater than the regular payback period.

5.    a.     The average accounting return is interpreted as an average measure of the accounting perfor-mance of a project over time, computed as some average profit measure attributable to the project divided by some average balance sheet value for the project. This text computes AAR as average net income with respect to average (total) book value. Given some predetermined cutoff for AAR, the decision rule is to accept projects with an AAR in excess of the target measure, and reject all other projects.

       b.     AAR is not a measure of cash flows and market value, but a measure of financial statement accounts that often bear little resemblance to the relevant value of a project. In addition, the selection of a cutoff is arbitrary, and the time value of money is ignored. For a financial manager, both the reliance on accounting numbers rather than relevant market data and the exclusion of time value of money considerations are troubling. Despite these problems, AAR continues to be used in practice because (1) the accounting information is usually available, (2) analysts often use accounting ratios to analyze firm performance, and (3) managerial compensation is often tied to the attainment of certain target accounting ratio goals.

6.    a.     NPV is simply the present value of a project’s cash flows. NPV specifically measures, after considering the time value of money, the net increase or decrease in firm wealth due to the project. The decision rule is to accept projects that have a positive NPV, and reject projects with a negative NPV.

       b.     NPV is superior to the other methods of analysis presented in the text because it has no serious flaws. The method unambiguously ranks mutually exclusive projects, and can differentiate between projects of different scale and time horizon. The only drawback to NPV is that it relies on cash flow and discount rate values that are often estimates and not certain, but this is a problem shared by the other performance criteria as well. A project with NPV = $2,500 implies that the total shareholder wealth of the firm will increase by $2,500 if the project is accepted.

7.    a.     The IRR is the discount rate that causes the NPV of a series of cash flows to be identically zero. IRR can thus be interpreted as a financial break-even rate of return; at the IRR discount rate, the net value of the project is zero. The IRR decision rule is to accept projects with IRRs greater than the discount rate, and to reject projects with IRRs less than the discount rate.

       b.     IRR is the interest rate that causes NPV for a series of cash flows to be zero. NPV is preferred in all situations to IRR; IRR can lead to ambiguous results if there are non-conventional cash flows, and it also ambiguously ranks some mutually exclusive projects. However, for stand-alone projects with conventional cash flows, IRR and NPV are interchangeable techniques.

       c.     IRR is frequently used because it is easier for many financial managers and analysts to rate performance in relative terms, such as “12%”, than in absolute terms, such as “$46,000.” IRR may be a preferred method to NPV in situations where an appropriate discount rate is unknown are uncertain; in this situation, IRR would provide more information about the project than would NPV.

8.    a.     The profitability index is the present value of cash inflows relative to the project cost. As such, it is a benefit/cost ratio, providing a measure of the relative profitability of a project. The profitability index decision rule is to accept projects with a PI greater than one, and to reject projects with a PI less than one.

       b.     PI = (NPV + cost)/cost = 1 + (NPV/cost). If a firm has a basket of positive NPV projects and is subject to capital rationing, PI may provide a good ranking measure of the projects, indicating the “bang for the buck” of each particular project.

9.    For a project with future cash flows that are an annuity:

       Payback = I / C 

       And the IRR is:

       0 = – I + C / IRR

       Solving the IRR equation for IRR, we get:

       IRR = C / I

       Notice this is just the reciprocal of the payback. So:

       IRR = 1 / PB

       For long-lived projects with relatively constant cash flows, the sooner the project pays back, the greater is the IRR.

10.   There are a number of reasons. Two of the most important have to do with transportation costs and exchange rates. Manufacturing in the U.S. places the finished product much closer to the point of sale, resulting in significant savings in transportation costs. It also reduces inventories because goods spend less time in transit. Higher labor costs tend to offset these savings to some degree, at least compared to other possible manufacturing locations. Of great importance is the fact that manufacturing in the U.S. means that a much higher proportion of the costs are paid in dollars. Since sales are in dollars, the net effect is to immunize profits to a large extent against fluctuations in exchange rates. This issue is discussed in greater detail in the chapter on international finance.

11.   The single biggest difficulty, by far, is coming up with reliable cash flow estimates. Determining an appropriate discount rate is also not a simple task. These issues are discussed in greater depth in the next several chapters. The payback approach is probably the simplest, followed by the AAR, but even these require revenue and cost projections. The discounted cash flow measures (discounted payback, NPV, IRR, and profitability index) are really only slightly more difficult in practice.

12.   Yes, they are. Such entities generally need to allocate available capital efficiently, just as for-profits do. However, it is frequently the case that the “revenues” from not-for-profit ventures are not tangible. For example, charitable giving has real opportunity costs, but the benefits are generally hard to measure. To the extent that benefits are measurable, the question of an appropriate required return remains. Payback rules are commonly used in such cases. Finally, realistic cost/benefit analysis along the lines indicated should definitely be used by the U.S. government and would go a long way toward balancing the budget!

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