What is Net Present Value?

Net Present Value

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Net Present Value

Net Present Value (NPV) is a financial concept that’s used in capital budgeting and investment planning. NPV measures the profitability of a project or investment by calculating the difference between the present value of cash inflows and the present value of cash outflows over a period of time.

The formula to calculate NPV is:

\(\text{NPV} = \sum \frac{C_n}{(1+r)^n} – \text{Initial Investment} \)


If the NPV is positive, it means the projected earnings (in present dollars) exceed the anticipated costs, also calculated in present dollars. This is generally interpreted as a signal that the project or investment could be a profitable one.

If the NPV is negative, the costs outweigh the earnings and the investment should perhaps not be made. If the NPV is zero, the earnings are expected to equal the costs, offering no net gain or loss.

NPV takes into account the time value of money, which is the concept that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar in the future due to its potential earning capacity. This core principle of finance holds that, provided money can earn interest, any amount of money is worth more the sooner it is received.

Example of Net Present Value

Suppose a company is considering a project that requires an initial investment of $10,000. The project is expected to generate cash flows of $4,000 in the first year, $5,000 in the second year, and $6,000 in the third year. Let’s say the company’s required rate of return (discount rate) is 10%.

We can calculate the NPV for the project using the formula:

\(\text{NPV} = \sum \frac{C_n}{(1+r)^n} – \text{Initial Investment} \)

For each period, we calculate the present value of the cash inflow and sum them up:

  • Year 1: \(\frac{\$4,000}{(1+0.10)^1} = \$3,636.36 \)
  • Year 2: \(\frac{\$5,000}{(1+0.10)^2} = \$4,132.23 \)
  • Year 3: \(\frac{\$6,000}{(1+0.10)^3} = \$4,504.13 \)

The sum of these present values is $3,636.36 + $4,132.23 + $4,504.13 = $12,272.72

Now, subtract the initial investment from this sum:

NPV = $12,272.72 – $10,000 = $2,272.72

The NPV of the project is $2,272.72. Since the NPV is positive, the project appears to be a good investment because it is expected to generate more cash inflows in present value terms than the cost of the initial investment.

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