Capital budgeting, or investment appraisal, is the planning process used to determine whether an organization's long term investments such as new machinery, replacement of machinery, new plants, new products, and research development projects are worth the funding of cash through the firm's capitalization structure (debt, equity or retained earnings). It is the process of allocating resources for major capital, or investment, expenditures. One of the primary goals of capital budgeting investments is to increase the value of the firm to the shareholders.
Many formal methods are used in capital budgeting, including the techniques such as
- Accounting rate of return
- Average accounting return
- Payback period
- Net present value
- Profitability index
- Internal rate of return
- Modified internal rate of return
- Equivalent annual cost
- Real options valuation
These methods use the incremental cash flows from each potential investment, or project. Techniques based on accounting earnings and accounting rules are sometimes used - though economists consider this to be improper - such as the accounting rate of return, and "return on investment." Simplified and hybrid methods are used as well, such as payback period and discounted payback period.
Net present value
'Net Present value:'
Capital budgeting projects are classified as either Independent Projects or Mutually Exclusive Projects. An Independent Project is a project whose cash flows are not affected by the accept/reject decision for other projects. Thus, all Independent Projects which meet the Capital Budgeting criterion should be accepted.
Mutually exclusive projects are a set of projects from which at most one will be accepted. For example, a set of projects which are to accomplish the same task. Thus, when choosing between "mutually exclusive projects", more than one project may satisfy the capital budgeting criterion. However, only one, i.e., the best, project can be accepted.
Of these three, only the net present value and internal rate of return decision rules consider all of the project's cash flows and the time value of money. As we shall see, only the net present value decision rule will always lead to the correct decision when choosing among mutually exclusive projects. This is because the net present value and internal rate of return decision rules differ with respect to their reinvestment rate assumptions. The net present value decision rule implicitly assumes that the project's cash flows can be reinvested at the firm's cost of capital, whereas the internal rate of return decision rule implicitly assumes that the cash flows can be reinvested at the project's IRR. Since each project is likely to have a different IRR, the assumption underlying the net present value decision rule is more reasonable.
Internal rate of return
The IRR method will result in the same decision as the NPV method for (non-mutually exclusive) projects in an unconstrained environment, in the usual cases where a negative cash flow occurs at the start of the project, followed by all positive cash flows. In most realistic cases, all independent projects that have an IRR higher than the hurdle rate should be accepted. Nevertheless, for mutually exclusive projects, the decision rule of taking the project with the highest IRR - which is often used - may select a project with a lower NPV.
In some cases, several zero NPV discount rates may exist, so there is no unique IRR. The IRR exists and is unique if one or more years of net investment (negative cash flow) are followed by years of net revenues. But if the signs of the cash flows change more than once, there may be several IRRs. The IRR equation generally cannot be solved analytically but only via iterations.
One shortcoming of the IRR method is that it is commonly misunderstood to convey the actual annual profitability of an investment. However, this is not the case because intermediate cash flows are almost never reinvested at the project's IRR; and, therefore, the actual rate of return is almost certainly going to be lower. Accordingly, a measure called Modified Internal Rate of Return (MIRR) is often used.
Despite a strong academic preference for NPV, surveys indicate that executives prefer IRR over NPV, although they should be used in concert. In a budget-constrained environment, efficiency measures should be used to maximize the overall NPV of the firm. Some managers find it intuitively more appealing to evaluate investments in terms of percentage rates of return than dollars of NPV.
Equivalent annuity method
The equivalent annuity method expresses the NPV as an annualized cash flow by dividing it by the present value of the annuity factor. It is often used when assessing only the costs of specific projects that have the same cash inflows. In this form it is known as the equivalent annual cost (EAC) method and is the cost per year of owning and operating an asset over its entire lifespan.
It is often used when comparing investment projects of unequal lifespans. For example, if project A has an expected lifetime of 7 years, and project B has an expected lifetime of 11 years it would be improper to simply compare the net present values (NPVs) of the two projects, unless the projects could not be repeated.
The use of the EAC method implies that the project will be replaced by an identical project.
Alternatively the chain method can be used with the NPV method under the assumption that the projects will be replaced with the same cash flows each time. To compare projects of unequal length, say 3 years and 4 years, the projects are chained together, i.e. four repetitions of the 3-year project are compare to three repetitions of the 4-year project. The chain method and the EAC method give mathematically equivalent answers.
The assumption of the same cash flows for each link in the chain is essentially an assumption of zero inflation, so a real interest rate rather than a nominal interest rate is commonly used in the calculations.
Real options analysis has become important since the 1970s as option pricing models have gotten more sophisticated. The discounted cash flow methods essentially value projects as if they were risky bonds, with the promised cash flows known. But managers will have many choices of how to increase future cash inflows, or to decrease future cash outflows. In other words, managers get to manage the projects - not simply accept or reject them. Real options analysis tries to value the choices - the option value - that the managers will have in the future and adds these values to the NPV.
The real value of capital budgeting is to rank projects. Most organizations have many projects that could potentially be financially rewarding. Once it has been determined that a particular project has exceeded its hurdle, then it should be ranked against peer projects (e.g. - highest Profitability index to lowest Profitability index). The highest ranking projects should be implemented until the budgeted capital has been expended.
Capital budgeting investments and projects must be funded through excess cash provided through the raising of debt capital, equity capital, or the use of retained earnings. Debt capital is borrowed cash, usually in the form of bank loans, or bonds issued to creditors. Equity capital are investments made by shareholders, who purchase shares in the company's stock. Retained earnings are excess cash surplus from the company's present and past earnings.
- A large sum of money is involved which influences the profitability of the firm making capital budgeting an important task.
- Long term investments, once made, cannot be reversed without a significant loss of invested capital. The investment becomes sunk, and mistakes, rather than being readily rectified, must often be borne until the firm can be withdrawn through depreciation charges or liquidation. It influences the whole conduct of the business for the years to come.
- Investment decisions are the based on which the profit will be earned and probably measured through the return on the capital. A proper mix of capital investment is quite important to ensure adequate rate of return on investment, calling for the need of capital budgeting.
- The implication of long term investment decisions are more extensive than those of short run decisions because of time factor involved, capital budgeting decisions are subject to the higher degree of risk and uncertainty than short run decision.
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- Varshney, R.L.; K.L. Maheshwari (2010). Manegerial Economics. 23 Daryaganj, New Delhi 110002: Sultan Chand & Sons. p. 881. ISBN 978-81-8054-784-3.
- International Good Practice: Guidance on Project Appraisal Using Discounted Cash Flow, International Federation of Accountants, June 2008, ISBN 978-1-934779-39-2
- Prospective Analysis: Guidelines for Forecasting Financial Statements, Ignacio Velez-Pareja, Joseph Tham, 2008
- To Plug or Not to Plug, that is the Question: No Plugs, No Circularity: A Better Way to Forecast Financial Statements, Ignacio Velez-Pareja, 2008
- A Step by Step Guide to Construct a Financial Model Without Plugs and Without Circularity for Valuation Purposes, Ignacio Velez-Pareja, 2008
- Long-Term Financial Statements Forecasting: Reinvesting Retained Earnings, Sergei Cheremushkin, 2008