> BDAy3 EbjbjCC uq!!?l<L'(68889qT"T'$( *='='2j'22262622Y34'0'+<+2CHAPTER 6: DISCOUNTING FUTURE BENEFITS AND COSTS
Purpose: This chapter deals with the practical issues one must know in order to compute the net present value of a project. It assumes the social discount rate is given, which is reasonable as the rate is often set by an oversight agency, such as the Office of Management and Budget. The chapter covers: the basics of discounting (twoperiods); compounding and discounting over multiple periods (years); the timing of benefits and costs; horizon (terminal) values; comparing projects with different time frames; inflation and the difference between nominal and real dollars; relative price changes; and sensitivity analysis in discounting. Appendix 6A provides shortcut formulas for calculating the present value of annuities and perpetuities.
BASICS OF DISCOUNTING
Projects with Lives of One Year
Discounting takes place over periods not years. However, for expositional simplicity, we assume that each period is a year. This section discusses projects that last one year.
There are three possible methods to evaluate potential projects: future value analysis, present value analysis and net present value analysis. Each gives the same answer.
Future Value Analysis Choose the project with the largest future value, FV, where the future value in one year of an amount X invested at interest rate i is:
FV = X (1 + i) (6.1)
Present Value Analysis Choose the project with the largest present value, PV, where the present value of an amount Y received in one year is:
PV = Y/(1 + i) (6.2)
Note that if the PV of a project equals X, and the FV of a project equals Y, both equations (6.1) and (6.2) imply:
EMBED Equation.3
This equation shows that discounting (the process of calculating the present value of future amounts) is the opposite of compounding (the process of calculating future values).
Net Present Value Analysis Choose the project with the largest net present value, which calculates the sum of the present values of all the benefits and costs of a project (including the initial investment):
NPV = PV(benefits) PV(costs) (6.3)
Usually projects are evaluated relative to the status quo. If there is only one new potential project and its impacts are calculated relative to the status quo, it should be selected if its NPV > 0, and should not be selected if its NPV < 0. If the impacts of multiple, mutually exclusive alternative projects are calculated relative to the status quo, one should choose the project with the highest NPV, as long as this projects NPV > 0. If the NPV < 0 for all projects, one should maintain the status quo.
COMPOUNDING AND DISCOUNTING OVER MULTIPLE YEARS
Future Value over Multiple Years Interest is compounded when an amount is invested for a number of years and the interest earned each period is reinvested. Interest on reinvested interest is called compound interest. The future value, FV, of an amount X invested for n years with interest compounded annually at rate i is:
FV= X (1+i)n (6.4)
Present Value over Multiple Years The present value, PV, of an amount Y received in n years, with interest compounded annually at rate i is:
EMBED Equation.3 (6.5)
The present value for a stream of benefits or costs over n years is:
EMBED Equation.3 or EMBED Equation.3 (6.6) and (6.7)
Net Present Value of a Project Inserting equations (6.6) and (6.7) into (6.3) gives the following useful expression for computing the NPV of a project:
EMBED Equation.3 (6.8)
Or, equivalently, the NPV of a project equals the present value of the net benefits (NBi = Bi  Ci):
EMBED Equation.3 (6.9)
TIMING OF BENEFITS AND COSTS
Thus far, we have assumed that impacts occur immediately, or at the end of the first year, or at the end of the second year, and so on. If most costs are incurred during the first few years of a project and most benefits arise later, this assumption is conservative in the sense that the NPV is lower than if it were computed under an alternative assumption.
Time lines are very useful ways to specify exactly when benefits and costs do occur. If benefits arise throughout a year, rather than at the end as we assumed above, one possibility is to compute the NPV as if the benefits occurred in the middle of the year. Alternatively, one could compute the NPV under the assumption they occur at the beginning of the year and under the assumption that they occur at the end of the year and take the average.
LONG LIVED PROJECTS AND TERMINAL VALUES
Some projects may have some benefits (and costs) that occur far in the future. For such projects, one can use a generalised version of equation (6.9) with infinity, , replacing n:
EMBED Equation.3 (6.10)
Some projects can be reasonably divided into two periods a near future (the discounting period), which pertains to the first k periods, and a far future, which pertains to the subsequent periods and is captured by the horizon value, Hk.. For such projects, the NPV can be computed:
EMBED Equation.3 (6.11)
where, PV(Hk) is the present value of the horizon value (i.e. the PV of all benefits and costs that arise after the first k periods). Usually, there is a natural choice for k  the useful life of the project, such as when or an asset undergoes a major refurbishment or the assets are sold.
Alternative Methods for Estimating Horizon Values
Horizon value based on simple projections  This is a theoretically appropriate method. However, it may be difficult to make even simple projections.
Horizon value based on salvage value or liquidation value  Horizon value is the scrap value of the assets of a project. This method is appropriate when:
SEQ 1_0 \* Arabic \r 11) No other costs or benefits arise beyond the discounting period.
SEQ 1_0 \* Arabic \n2) There is a well functioning market in which to value the asset.
SEQ 1_0 \* Arabic \n3) The market values reflect social values (i.e, no externalities).
In practice it is often very difficult to determine the market value of an asset used in a government project. Consider, for example, the market value of a 25 yearold road! Even if a market value did exist, it probably would not reflect its social value.
Estimating Horizon value based on depreciated value  This method estimates the (economic) depreciation of an asset based on empirical market studies of similar assets and then subtracts this amount from the initial value. (One never uses accounting depreciation in CBA). It is applicable when there is no market for some capital item, because, for example, it remains in the public sector, but one knows the depreciation rate of similar assets. Of course, one should make adjustments where appropriate, for example, if the asset is used more or less intensely than average.
Estimating horizon value based on the initial construction cost  This method uses some arbitrary proportion of the initial construction cost as an horizon value.
Set the horizon value equal to zero  This method chooses a fairly long discounting period and sets the present value of subsequent net benefits to zero. If the discounting period is too short, this method may omit important impacts.
COMPARING PROJECTS WITH DIFFERENT TIME FRAMES
Analysts should not choose one project over another solely based on the NPV of each project if the time spans are different. Such projects are not directly comparable. Two appropriate methods to evaluate projects with different life spans are:
Rolling over the Shorter Project
If project A spans n times the number of years as project B, then assume that project B is repeated n times and compare the NPV of n repeated project Bs to the NPV of (one) project A. For example, if project A lasts 30 years and project B lasts 15 years, compare the NPV of project A to the NPV of 2 backtoback project Bs, where the latter is computed:
NPV = x + x/(1+i)15
where, x = NPV of one15year project B.
Equivalent Annual Net Benefits (EANB) Method
The EANB is the amount received each year for the life of the project that has the same NPV as the project itself. The EANB of a project is computed by dividing the NPV by the appropriate annuity factor, ain:
EANB = NPV/ ain (6.12)
The appropriate annuity factor is the present value of an annuity of $1 for the life of the project (n years), where i = interest rate used to compute the NPV. Obviously, one would choose the project with the highest EANB.
Other Considerations
Shorter projects also have an additional benefit (not included in EANB) because one does not necessarily have to rollover the shorter project when it is finished. A better option might be available at that time. This additional benefit is called quasioption value and is discussed further in Chapter 7.
REAL VERSUS NOMINAL DOLLARS
Conventional private sector financial analysis measures monetary amounts in nominal dollars (sometimes called current dollars). But, due to inflation, one cannot buy as many goods and services with a dollar today as one could one, two or more years previouslya dollars not worth a dollar anymore. It is important to control for inflation (i.e. general price increases).
We control for inflation by converting nominal dollars to real dollars (sometimes called constant dollars). We usually use the consumer price index (CPI), but sometimes use the gross national product (GNP).
Estimates of Inflation and Problems with CPI
The CPI is the most commonly used measure of inflation. Prior to 1998, the CPI overstated inflation by about 0.8% to 1.6% per annum. Four reasons for the overstatement are:
SEQ 1_0 \* Arabic \r 11) Commodity substitution effect: The CPI did not accurately reflect changes in consumer purchases, such as switching to lowerpriced substitutes;
2) New goods: The basket of goods did not include some new products, e.g., new (cheaper) generic drugs;
3) Quality improvements: The CPI did not accurately reflect changes in product quality, e.g. more safe or reliable cars;
4) Discount store effect: Consumers are shopping more at discount stores, which have less expensive products.
When using historical data we suggest analysts should: 1) use the actual CPI and 2) use the actual CPI 1% for data prior to 1998, and actual CPI % for subsequent years.
Analyzing Future Benefits and Costs in CBA
Suppose an analyst is interested in computing the NPV of a future project. She could either measure the benefits and costs in real dollars and discount using a real discount rate or she could measure the benefits and costs in nominal dollars and discount using a nominal discount rate. Both methods would result in the same numerical answer.
We suggest working in real dollars as it is usually easier and more intuitive. Suppose the expected annual rate of inflation during the life of the project is denoted by m. Benefits or costs that are given in nominal dollars may be converted to real dollars by discounting them at rate m using equation (6.5). If the discount rate is given in nominal dollars and is denoted by i, then it may be converted to a real discount rate, denoted by r using the expression:
EMBED Equation.3 (6.13)
Note that r is approximately equal to i  m, especially if m is small.
Estimates of Expected Inflation
Estimates of future inflation are available from reputable investment firms, branches of the Federal government, a Federal Reserve Bank, or the OECD. The Economist presents the results of a recent poll of consumer price forecasts for the current year and the following year. In the US, there are three easily accessible survey measures of inflation.
RELATIVE PRICE CHANGES
Generally, we assume that the prices of all goods and services change at the same rate as the rate of inflation. If the price of an item does not change at this rate, then it experiences a relative price change. If the NPV of a project depends importantly on the price of this item, then this item should be analyzed separately. Table 6.5 shows that a small percentage change in the price of one item can have a large impact on the NPV of a project.
SENSITIVITY ANALYSIS IN DISCOUNTING
Varying the Discount Rate and Horizon Value
As we discuss in Chapter 10, there is considerable uncertainty about the appropriate discounting method. Consequently, sensitivity analysis should usually be conducted on the discount rate. The horizon value is also a target for sensitivity analysis. It is helpful and easy to plot the NPV of a project against the discount rate for one or two estimates of the horizon value, as illustrated in Figure 6.7.
Internal Rate of Return (IRR)
The IRR of a project equals the discount rate at which the projects NPV = 0. The IRR indicates the annual rate of return that would be derived from an equivalent project of similar size and similar duration. When there is only one alternative to the status quo, one should invest in the project if its IRR > social discount rate. However, there are some problems using the IRR as a decision rule. We suggest using only the NPV rule for decision making, although the IRR conveys useful information about how sensitive the results are to the discount rate.
APPENDIX 6A: SHORTCUT METHODS FOR CALCULATING THE PRESENT VALUE OF ANNUITIES AND PERPETUITIES
An annuity is an equal, fixed amount received (or paid) each year for a number of years. A perpetuity is an indefinite annuity. Many CBAs contain annuities or perpetuities. Fortunately, there are some simple formulas for calculating their PVs.
Present Value of an Annuity
Using equation (6.6), the present value of an annuity of $A per annum (with payments received at the end of each year) for n years with interest at i percent is given by:
EMBED Equation.3
This is the sum of n terms of a geometric series with the common ratio equal to 1/(1 + i). Consequently,
PV = AEMBED Equation.3 (6A.1)
where , EMBED Equation.3. (6A.2)
The termEMBED Equation.3, which equals the present value of an annuity of $1 per year for n years when the interest rate is i percent, is called an annuity factor.
The PV of an annuity decreases as the interest rate increases and vice versa. Annuity payments after the 20th year add little to the present value when interest rates are 10% or higher. For this reason privatesector companies are often reluctant to make very longterm investments.
Present Value of a Perpetuity
Taking the limit of equation (6A.2) as n goes to infinity implies that the present value of an amount, denoted by A, received (at the end of) each year in perpetuity is given by:
EMBED Equation.3 if i > 0 (6A.3)
Present Value of an Annuity that Grows or Declines at a Constant Rate
Sometimes a projects benefits (or costs) grow at a constant rate. Let Bt denote the benefits in year t. If the annual benefits grow at a constant rate, g, then the benefits in year t will be:
Bt = Bt1(1 + g) = B1(1 + g)t1 t = 2,. . .,n (6A.4)
Under these circumstances, and if i > g, then the present value of the total benefits can be shown to be:
EMBED Equation.3 (6A.5)
where, EMBED Equation.3 is defined by equation (6A.2) and
EMBED Equation.3 (6A.6)
If the growth rate is small, then B1/(1 + g) is approximately equal to B1 and i0 is approximately equal to i  g. Therefore, from equation (6A.5), the present value of a benefits stream that starts at B1 and grows at rate g for n1 additional years approximately equals the present value of an annuity of B1 for n years discounted at rate i  g. When g is positive (negative), the annuity is discounted at a lower (higher) rate.
Present Value of Benefits and Costs that Grow or Decline at a Constant Rate in Perpetuity
If the initial benefits, B1, grow indefinitely at a constant rate g and if the interest rate equals i, then the PV of the total benefits is found by taking the limit of equation (6A.5) as n goes to infinity, which gives:
EMBED Equation.3 (6A.7)
Some finance students will recognize this model as the Gordon growth model, which is also called the dividend growth model.
Boardman, Greenberg, Vining, Weimer / CostBenefit Analysis, 3rd Edition
Instructor's Manual 6 PAGE 2
Boardman, Greenberg, Vining, Weimer / CostBenefit Analysis, 3rd Edition
Instructor's Manual 6 PAGE 8
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