Difference Between NPV and IRR

Difference Between NPV and IRR

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Chanchal
Chanchal Aggarwal
Senior Executive Content
Updated on May 28, 2024 17:17 IST

The main difference between NPV (Net Present Value) and IRR (Internal Rate of Return) lies in their focus: NPV calculates the absolute value of an investment, considering all cash flows, while IRR focuses on finding the discount rate that makes an investment break even, neglecting the actual rupees value.

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Net Present Value (NPV) and Internal Rate of Return (IRR) are tools used to evaluate investments. NPV calculates the total value an investment will generate by summing up the present value of future cash flows and subtracting the initial investment. It shows in monetary terms what you’ll gain.

On the other hand, IRR is the annual rate of return at which the investment breaks even. It offers you the yearly percentage return you’ll earn on your investment. Both help decide whether an investment is worth pursuing, but from different angles. Let’s explore the difference between NPV and IRR.

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Table of Content

Comparative Table: Difference Between NPV and IRR

Aspect Net Present Value (NPV) Internal Rate of Return (IRR)
Definition Calculates the net value an investment will generate by subtracting the initial investment from the present value of future cash flows. Finds the annual percentage return at which an investment breaks even (NPV equals zero).
Measurement In monetary terms (e.g., ₹, $) In percentage terms (%)
Perspective Provides a net value of the investment over the project life. Provides an annual return rate over the project life.
Dependency on Rate Requires a discount rate for calculation. Does not require a specified discount rate.
Decision Criterion A positive NPV indicates a potentially good investment. An IRR exceeding the required rate of return indicates a potentially good investment.
Multiple Solutions Always provides a single solution. May yield multiple solutions in specific scenarios.
Ease of Comparison Less intuitive to compare different investments. More intuitive for compare different investments.
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What is NPV?

Net Present Value (NPV) is a fundamental financial metric. It is used to evaluate the profitability and feasibility of an investment or project. At the same time represents the difference between the present value of cash inflows and the present value of cash outflows. By discounting each cash flow back to its current value, NPV indicates how much value an investment or project will generate compared to its costs in today’s money terms. A positive NPV means that the projected earnings exceed the anticipated costs, making it a viable investment, while a negative NPV suggests the opposite, aiding in informed financial decision-making.

Example of NPV:

Consider a scenario where you contemplate investing in a small fast-food restaurant in India. The cost to purchase the restaurant is ₹50 lakhs. You project that the restaurant will generate a net cash flow of ₹12 lakhs per year for the next 5 years. To evaluate this investment, you calculate the Net Present Value (NPV) using a discount rate of 10% to account for the time value of money and the risks associated with the investment.

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Where:

CFt is the cash flow at the time of t

r is the discount rate

t is the time period (in years),

C0 is the initial investment cost

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Explanation:

The NPV calculation involves discounting each of the projected cash flows back to their present value and then subtracting the initial investment amount. The discount rate of 10% reflects the time value of money and the relative risk of the investment.

Conclusion:

The negative NPV of ₹(-4.50 lakhs) suggests that, based on the given projections and discount rate, the restaurant investment is expected to generate less value than the cost of the investment. Therefore, purchasing the restaurant under the current conditions may not be a financially sound decision.

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What is IRR?

The Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is a crucial financial metric used to estimate the profitability of investments or projects. It represents the discount rate at which the Net Present Value (NPV) of all cash flows from a particular project or investment equals zero. In other words, the IRR is the rate at which the present value of future cash flows equals the initial investment, thus indicating a break-even point. A higher IRR signifies a potentially more profitable investment, making it a valuable tool for comparing different investment opportunities. By analyzing the IRR, investors and managers can ascertain the desirability and potential profitability of investments, aiding in decision-making.

Example of IRR:

Consider a scenario where you plan to invest in a new retail clothing store in India. The initial investment required to start the store is ₹30 lakhs. You estimate the store will generate a net cash flow of ₹10 lakhs per year for the next 4 years. To evaluate the financial viability of this investment, you decide to calculate the Internal Rate of Return (IRR).

The formula to find the IRR is based on the Net Present Value (NPV) formula, set to zero:

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where,

CFt is the cash flow at time t,

IRR is the Internal Rate of Return

t is the time period (in years),Co is the initial investment cost

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Explanation

The IRR is the discount rate at which the Net Present Value (NPV) of all future cash flows from the investment equals zero. In other words, it is the rate at which the present value of future cash flows equals the initial investment, indicating a break-even point.

Conclusion

Investment in the retail clothing store is expected to generate a return of 18.92% annually over the next 4 years. It is the break-even rate for this investment. This IRR can be compared to other investment opportunities. Also, with the company’s required rate of return to make an instructed investment decision. If the IRR exceeds the company’s required rate of return, the investment in the retail clothing store could be financially sound.

Which is Better? NPV or IRR

Choosing between NPV and IRR depends on the project’s specific circumstances and nature. NPV provides

  • a clear monetary value representing the project’s worth,
  • making it straightforward and precise, while IRR gives a percentage return,
  • making it easier to compare with other investments or a required rate of return.

Generally, for non-conventional or mutually exclusive projects, NPV is preferred for its accuracy in value representation, while IRR is good for comparing similar, straightforward tasks. Both methods, when used together, can offer a comprehensive view of the project’s financial viability.

Top FAQs on Difference Between NPV and IRR

What is NPV?

NPV (Net Present Value) calculates the present value of future cash flows minus the initial investment. It shows the absolute value a project adds in today's terms.

What is IRR?

IRR (Internal Rate of Return) is the discount rate at which the NPV of future cash flows equals zero. It represents the project's average annual return.

How do NPV and IRR differ in decision-making?

NPV provides the value added in monetary terms, while IRR gives the rate of return. A positive NPV or an IRR above the hurdle rate generally indicates a good investment.

Can a project have a positive NPV and negative IRR?

No, a positive NPV automatically means the IRR is above the discount rate used, so it cannot be negative.

Is it possible for NPV and IRR to give conflicting results?

Yes, particularly with non-conventional cash flows or different project scales. IRR may favor projects with high rates of return but smaller value, while NPV favors absolute value added.

About the Author
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Chanchal Aggarwal
Senior Executive Content

Chanchal is a creative and enthusiastic content creator who enjoys writing research-driven, audience-specific and engaging content. Her curiosity for learning and exploring makes her a suitable writer for a variety ... Read Full Bio