Contabilidad II  © John Petroff Source: PEOI


CHAPTER : Chapter 14

Investment analysis

© 1989 John Petroff

Chapter 14:



The information needed for many business decisions requiring to choose between several alternatives, goes beyond the data provided in the financial statements and involves expected or future revenues and costs. In this analysis of expected numbers, only what changes is relevant: what does not change is irrelevant. Thus, the name given to this analysis as differential or incremental. Note that, while variable cost do naturally vary, some fixed cost can also change in some of these decisions. Note also that past costs are irrelevant: they called sunk costs.

When comparing the choice between leasing or selling currently unused equipment, the additional, incremental or differential elements of either are studied for
1- revenue,
2- costs, and
3- net gain.
Book value and accumulated depreciation are omitted as irrelevant, but net tax effects are not.

When a manufacturer has excess productive capacity in space, equipment and labor, producing components may be better than purchasing them. Producing is chosen if the incremental cost is lower than the purchase price. The incremental cost combines additional direct materials, direct labor, fixed factory overhead and variable factory overhead. Non economic factors, such as relations with suppliers, also often come into consideration.

The differential analysis for plant asset replacement takes the following into consideration: annual variable costs of both new and old equipment, the expected life of new equipment, the cost of new equipment, the proceeds from the sale of old equipment, and any annual differential in cost.

When a benefit or profit that could have been obtained, was not, this foregone benefit is referred to as an opportunity cost. While accounting is concerned with out-of-pocket costs, for most business decisions, opportunity costs are just as real and, in some cases, more significant.

Products, branches, segments, departments, and territories that are unprofitable should be considered for elimination. If eliminating the unprofitable segments has no effect on fixed costs, the overall net income from operations will improve from the reduction in variable costs. This depends, however, on whether the remaining products or segments are competing or complementary. In the later case, revenue may decrease creating an opportunity cost in excess of the out-of-pocket cost reduction. Fixed costs can also play a role if alternative uses for the plant capacity exist. Lastly, layoffs can affect morale.

Manufacturing companies often sell their products at an intermediary stage of production. When differential analysis is used to determine whether goods should be sold now or processed further, only costs and revenues from further processing need to be considered. When more net income can be earned by processing goods further, they should be produced providing the production capacity exists.

A company may accept additional business at a special price. Incremental or differential analysis is used to determine the differential revenue and costs. Companies not operating at full capacity usually can benefit from additional business, if fixed costs remain the same and the fixed cost per unit produced decreases. However, a company operating at full capacity is likely to see both fixed costs and variable costs rise.

Capital investment analysis or capital budgeting is used by management to plan, evaluate, and control long-term investment decisions. Capital investment decisions commonly affect operations for a number of years and require a long-term commitment of funds. Capital investment decisions are usually based on either
1- payback period,
2- average rate of return,
3- net present value, or
4- internal rate of return.

The average rate of return is calculated by dividing average annual net income by average investment. When comparing projects, the highest average rate of return is selected, but consideration for risk is given. The method is commonly used to determine investment proposals with a short life span, and therefore, it is not essential to use present values. The advantage of the method is its simplicity, but ignoring time value of money is a drawback.

The payback period or cash payback method measures the number of years it will take to recover a capital investment. It is determined by dividing the original investment by annual net cash flows, or, if the cash flows are uneven, by adding up cash flows until the original investment is recovered. Generally, the shorter the payback period the better. A disadvantage of this method is that it does not take into account cash flows beyond the payback period since proposals with longer payback periods may prove to be more profitable in the long-run. The method is used by firms with liquidity problems or high risk.

Net present value and internal rate of return are both discounted cash flow methods and give recognition to the time value of money by discounting, that is, taking the present value of all future cash flows. Both methods require a discount rate or opportunity cost of capital. This rate is influenced by a number of factors such as presence of risk, availability of borrowing, relative profitability, minimum desired rate of return, nature of the business and purpose of capital investments. The calculation of discounted cash flows can involve the use of factor tables, exact formulas, financial calculators or computers.

The net present value is the sum of the discounted future net cash flows minus the initial investment. All proposals with positive net present value are acceptable. When competing alternative proposals are compare, the one with the largest net present value is chosen. An index determined by dividing the total present value of net cash flows by the initial investment is sometimes used instead when comparing project with different size of initial investment.


The internal rate of return, also called the discount rate, is the rate for which the net present value is zero. That is, the sum of future net cash flows discounted for time value of money is just equal to the initial investment for that particular rate. This internal rate of return is compared to the cost of capital or cutoff rate, and if higher, the project is accepted. When competing proposal are compared the project with the highest internal rate of return is chosen. Calculating the internal rate of return requires either a trial and error method by looking up in present value tables a present value factor given by dividing the initial investment by the annual cash flow, or with the use of a financial calculator or computer.

A number of factors complicate capital investment analysis. They are inflation, income taxes, incorrect estimates and the possibility of leasing instead of buying.

Capital rationing means that there is only enough capital for the projects with the greatest profit potential. The proposals are initially evaluated to see if they meet minimum cash payback period or required average rate of return. If they do, they are then further evaluated by present value techniques. Proposals that have met all financial criteria are then subjected to nonfinancial analysis.

Once capital expenditure proposals have been approved, a capital expenditure budget is prepared. Procedures for controlling expenditures should also be established. Capital expenditures budgets compare actual results with projections.


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