Business & ManagementIB

Net present value (NPV)

Net present value (NPV)__Net Present Value (NPV) is a discounted cash flow method used for evaluating investments or capital projects. It is the most popular method of investment appraisal. NPV is the dollar amount...
Net present value (NPV)
Net Present Value (NPV) Method

Demystifying the Net Present Value (NPV) Method

The NPV method is a sophisticated financial analysis tool used to evaluate the profitability of an investment project. It's particularly realistic because it considers the time value of money, showing us the worth of future earnings in today's terms.

What is the NPV Method?

The NPV method discounts future cash flows to present value using a discount rate, which reflects the risk and time value of money. The formula for NPV is:

NPV = Σ (Cash flow in year t / (1 + r)^t) - Initial Investment

where r is the discount rate and t is the year.

Calculating NPV for the IB Exam

In the IB exam, you'll be expected to calculate NPV using provided data. You'll discount future cash flows to their present values and subtract the initial investment. A positive NPV indicates a profitable investment.

Real-Life Examples

Let's explore five real-life examples to illustrate the NPV method:

Example 1: Real Estate Investment

A developer is considering building a new apartment complex. The project requires an initial investment of $1 million with expected cash inflows over five years. Using a discount rate of 8%, the NPV calculation shows the project is profitable.

Example 2: Manufacturing Expansion

A manufacturing firm plans to invest in new machinery costing $500,000, expecting to increase cash flows by $125,000 annually for six years. With a 10% discount rate, the NPV is positive, making it a sound investment.

Example 3: Tech Start-up Investment

An investor is evaluating a tech start-up seeking $200,000 for a 10% stake. Projected cash flows suggest a high return over three years. Discounting these at 12%, the NPV analysis supports the investment.

Example 4: Oil Exploration Projects

An oil company is assessing the viability of an exploration project with an upfront cost of $2 million. Expected cash flows over a decade, discounted at 15%, reveal a high NPV, indicating potential for substantial profits.

Example 5: New Product Development

A consumer goods company is considering developing a new product line. The project requires $750,000 with anticipated returns over four years. An NPV calculation with a 9% discount rate confirms the project's feasibility.


Understanding and applying the NPV method is crucial for making informed investment decisions. It's a valuable skill for IB Business Management students, providing a realistic approach to evaluating the time-adjusted profitability of projects.

The NPV method is very realistic, as it makes use of discount tables which show us how much the future earnings are worth in today’s terms. So, this method makes use of the discounted cash flow, instead of the net cash flow we used in the previous 2 methods. Thus, it shows the effect of time on the rate of return of an investment project.

How do I calculate and present it in the exam?

Table 3.3: NPV for project A at 20% discount rate ($000)

Yera Net Cash flow Present value
0 (20) (20)
1 5 5 × 0.83 = 4.15
2 8 8 × 0.69 = 5.52
3 10 10 × 0.58 = 5.8
4 12 12 × 0.48 = 5.76
Present Values 4.15 + 5.52 + 5.8 + 5.76 = 21.23
Net present value (NPV) 21.23 − 20 = 1.23

Net present value (NPV) = ∑Present values of return − Original cost

What do all these numbers mean?

The case study will tell you what discount rate to use (all the discount values will be provided in your formula booklet). So, what you need to do is multiply every year’s net cash flow with the number from the discount table. After doing that, we sum up all the values and we get the present value of the predicted net cash flow for every year. Finally, to find the NVP, subtract the value of the investment from the present value cash flow.

If we used this method to appraise different investment projects, we would choose the investment with the highest NPV.

Advantages Disadvantages
Payback period ✔ Simple, cheap, not time consuming.
✔ Indicates when the investment will be paid off.
✔ Ignores the profitability of a project.
✔ Does not take into account figures for net cash flow.
ARR ✔ Clearly shows the profitability of the project.
✔ More realistic.
✔ All the figures for net cash flow are predicted.
✔ Ignores the time dimension.
✔ Does not take the effect of time on the value of money into account.
NPV ✔ Very realistic. ✔ All the figures for net cash flow are predicted.
✔ Ignores the time dimension.
✔ Calculating is the most complex.

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