Net Present Value (NPV) Calculation


This course provides instructions and examples for calculating Net Present Value (NPV), an indicator of profitability for an investment project.

A typical Cleaner Production project involves an initial investment (a cash outflow) that will reduce the costs of using existing equipment and processes. This reduction in annual costs provides cash flow in future years that will repay the initial investment.

The NPV calculation converts all projected future cash flows of a project to their “present value”, i.e., their value NOW, at the very beginning of the project. Then, all the current values are added together to calculate a single figure that can characterize the overall value of the company’s project, in other words, the profitability of the project.

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In general, the NPV is calculated for a specific period of interest, e.g. e.g., 3 years or 5 years. If the NPV of the project is greater than zero, the project is considered profitable for that period of time. If the NPV of the project is less than zero, the project is considered NOT profitable for that period of time.

Net Present Value (NPV) Calculation Formulas

By definition, the NPV = the sum of the present values of all the monetary flows of a project, both negative (money outflows) and positive (money inflows). For the sake of simplicity, project cash flows are estimated on an annual basis.

The formula for calculating the NPV is as follows:

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NPVn = (PV1 + PV2 +…………+ NPV) – Cost of initial investment where:

NPVn = the net present value of the project over “n” number of years PV1 through NPV = the cash flows from each project year (positive for cash inflows and negative for cash outflows) money).

The formula for calculating the present value for a cash flow (FM) of a particular year is as follows:

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VAn = VFn * FVAna where: VAn = the present value of the cash flows derived from “n” years

FVAna = a factor of present value during year (n) and the discount rate (a) of the project

The values of the FVA have been calculated for various combinations of “n” and “a” and are distributed on the “Table of current values” where they can be easily checked

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NPV calculation steps

Before calculating the NPV of a project, you must follow these instructions:

1) The cost of the initial investment

2) The future cash inflows or outflows (FM) of the project, forecast for each coming year. Sometimes future cash flows will be the same every year and other times they will be erratic. Sometimes they will all be cash inflows and sometimes a mixture of cash inflows and outflows. Flows vary from project to project.

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3) The discount rate (a) for the company or project. Some companies use an average discount rate for the analysis of all projects. Other companies may prefer slightly different discount rates for different projects.

The discount rate you use should be equal to the rate of return required for the investment project and should take into account price inflation, the risks associated with the project and the actual return you need. At a minimum, this required rate of return must cover the cost of investment capital to the business.

4) The number of years (n) during which you want to evaluate the profitability of the project. In addition, you will need either a “present value table” where you will find the present value factors (FVA), or a scientific calculator which will allow you to calculate the present value factors yourself. Both methods are demonstrated below.

Using a “Present Value Table” to Determine Present Value Factors

A table of present values will allow you to find the present value factors (FVA) for various combinations of “n” (year of the project) and “a” (discount rate of the project).

As an example, find a PPP investment using the following parameters:

  • Initial investment: $150,000
  • Future Values (VF):
  • Year 1 – $45,000
  • Year 2 – US$45,000
  • Year 3 – US$77,000
  • Discount rate (a): 10%
  • Number of years (n): 3

Using the attached present value table, find the present value factors (PVF) for a 10% discount rate and for project years 1, 2 and 3 FVA of year 1: 0, 9091 Year 2 FVA: 0.8264 Year 3 FVA: 0.7513

Using the FVA shown above, you can convert the future cost reductions for each year to their present value. These values are then added together to estimate the net present value of the project. The initial investment (which is already in current dollars) is subtracted from the sum. The result is the net present value of the project.

Calcul de la valeur actuelle nette (VAN)

For this example, according to the calculations, the NPV is -$14,052, which means that the investment does not pay off in three years. A positive value for the NPV would indicate that the investment pays off in three years. if you need other information do not hesitate to contact us on our pages or to write comments below the article

Problems related to the use of NPV

The Net Present Value (NPV) is an essential criterion for estimating the profitability of an investment project. However, there are specific situations where this criterion may prove ineffective.

Projects with different lifespans

One of the most common challenges when using NPV is comparing projects with different lifespans. How do you decide if a four-year NPV of $10,000 is better than a seven-year NPV of $12,000?

Several approaches are possible to solve this problem. The most common is to make lifetimes the same by repeating projects to get the same horizons.

For example, if we have a four-year project and a seven-year project, we can perform the NPV calculations for seven replicates of the first project and four replicates of the second project. Thus, the estimates will be based on a duration of 28 years in both cases.

This solution may seem simple, but it remains unrealistic from an economic point of view. Another approach would be to assume that projects will be repeated ad infinitum. This strategy is particularly relevant for long-term projects. Although it can be argued that the estimates will be less reliable in the distant future, this uncertainty will affect the two projects compared in a similar way.

Projects in the event of capital rationing

Another important problem arises when a company has limited funds to finance its investment projects. How to integrate this constraint into the decision-making based on the NPV? By itself, the NPV criterion does not take into account capital rationing.

In this situation, the company will have to exercise caution and undertake only a part of the projects deemed acceptable according to the previous methods. For example, a company whose cost of capital is 10%, but which can only finance its projects up to a specific amount, will have to postpone the projects with the lowest profitability.

Capital rationing occurs when the company has less funds than it needs to finance all of its profitable projects. This situation may result from an external limitation of capital, but more often than not, it stems from the company’s internal desire not to go into debt beyond a certain amount or to favor development through self-financing. Capital rationing can also arise from a strategic decision to allocate a specific fraction of available resources to each project.

Managing the relative scarcity of funds

Whatever the reason for the rationing of capital, the entrepreneur will have to face a relative insufficiency of available funds, which will lead him to seek the best way to use this limited capital. In this context, demanding the best possible return for each dollar invested is essential.

An effective approach to managing this relative scarcity is to assess the ratio between the NPV and the initial investment for each potential project. In other words, we calculate the “bang for the buck” of each project. Projects offering the best return on investment per dollar spent will be given preference.

Consideration of risks

When using the NPV to evaluate investment projects, it is crucial to consider the risks associated with each project. Two projects with the same NPV can present very different levels of risk.

To incorporate risks into the analysis, companies can use a risk-adjusted NPV (VANAR) approach. This method consists of applying a different discount rate depending on the level of risk of each project. Riskier projects will be subject to a higher discount rate, while less risky projects will benefit from a lower rate.

Consideration of opportunity costs

Another crucial aspect to consider when using NPV is opportunity costs. When a company invests in a project, it is giving up other investment opportunities that could have generated a different return.

To properly assess opportunity costs, it is necessary to compare each project with the best available alternative. This makes it possible to determine whether the selected project is truly the best choice given the possible alternatives.


The NPV is a powerful tool for evaluating the profitability of investment projects. However, it is essential to understand its limitations and take into account the specifics of each situation. By taking into account differing lifespans, capital rationing, risk and opportunity costs, companies can make more informed decisions and optimize their resource allocation.

In conclusion, mastering the NPV and using it wisely can allow a company to stand out from its competitors by making informed and profitable investment decisions.

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