conflict between npv and irr: NPV vs IRR: An Investors Guide


Discounted Payback PeriodThe discounted payback period is when the investment cash flow paybacks the initial investment, based on the time value of money. It determines the expected return from a proposed capital investment opportunity. It adds discounting to the primary payback period determination, significantly enhancing the result accuracy.


For example, consider a project for which the marketing department must reinvent the brand every couple of years to stay current in a trendy market. Unlike the IRR, a company’s net present value is expressed in a dollar amount. It is the difference between a company’s present value of cash inflows and its present value of cash outflows over a specific period of time. Net Present ValueNet Present Value estimates the profitability of a project and is the difference between the present value of cash inflows and the present value of cash outflows over the project’s time period. If the difference is positive, the project is profitable; otherwise, it is not. This method entirely depends on estimated cash flows as it is a discount rate that tries to make NPV of cash flows of a project equal to zero.

Since the NPV method does not assume this assumption, so change in reinvestment rate does not affect the net present value of the company. The IRR method assumes that all the cash flows are reinvested at the same return provided by the investment, so a little change in the reinvestment rate will change the IRR results. Net present value is the difference between the present value of cash inflows and the present value of cash outflows over a period of time. By contrast, the internal rate of return is a calculation used to estimate the profitability of potential investments. When the present value of the all the future cash flows generated from a project is added together the result obtained will be the Net Present Value or NPV. The concept is having great importance in the field of finance and investment for taking important decisions relating to cash flows generating over multiple years.

Definition of NPV

IRR Calculation Using An ExcelThe internal rate of return, or IRR, calculates the profit generated by a financial investment. IRR is a built-in function in Excel that calculates the IRR using a range of values as an input and an estimate value as the second input. Theoretically, a positive NPV project should cause a proportionate increase in a company’s stock price. But, if the project’s profitability is less than expectations, then the stock price may be negatively impacted. Multiple IRRs is a situation where a project has two or more IRRs. This problem is caused by the non-conventional cash flows of a project.

It represents the amount of cash flow available to all the funding holders – debt holders, stockholders, preferred stockholders or bondholders. IRR method gives you the advantage of knowing the actual returns of the money which you invested today. As it will show are your returns greater than its cost of capital or not. Plans, there are capital budgeting tools used by many organizations and individuals to find out the profitability of the project. The reasons of conflict amidst the two are due to the variance in the inflows, outflows, and life of the project.

Yet while this rate is usually a reliable method of determining whether a capital investment project is a good investment or not, under some conditions IRR is not reliable, while NPV is. Other things held constant, an increase in the cost of capital will result in a decrease in a project’s IRR. If the net present value of a project or investment is negative, then it is not worth undertaking, as it will be worth less in the future than it is today. Thus, you can see that the usefulness of the IRR measurement lies in its ability to represent any investment opportunity’s possible return and compare it with other alternative investments. Yarilet Perez is an experienced multimedia journalist and fact-checker with a Master of Science in Journalism. She has worked in multiple cities covering breaking news, politics, education, and more.


IRR estimates the profitability of potential investments using a percentage value rather than a dollar amount. Full BioMichael Boyle is an experienced financial professional with more than 10 years working with financial planning, derivatives, equities, fixed income, project management, and analytics. Chris Gallant, CFA, is a senior manager of interest rate risk for ATB Financial with 10 years of experience in the financial markets.

Profitability Index (PI)

If a discount rate is not known, or cannot be applied to a specific project for whatever reason, the IRR is of limited value. If a project’s NPV is above zero, then it’s considered to be financially worthwhile. When analyzing a typical project, it is important to distinguish between the figures returned by NPV vs IRR, as conflicting results arise when comparing two different projects using the two indicators. Typically, one project may provide a larger IRR while a rival project may show a higher NPV. Companies use IRR to determine if an investment, project or expenditure was worthwhile.

  • The internal rate of return is that discount rate that equates the present value of the cash outflows with the present value of the cash inflows.
  • When faced with difficult situations and a choice must be made between two competing projects, it is best to choose a project with a larger positive net value by using cutoff rate or a fitting cost of capital.
  • IRR is a built-in function in Excel that calculates the IRR using a range of values as an input and an estimate value as the second input.
  • Therefore, the accept/reject decision under the IRR method is independent of the cost of capital.

It can be used to compare the investment relative to the returns and risk of other investments. IRR is commonly used by private equity/hedge funds to evaluate potential opportunities. Both IRR and NPV can be used to determine how desirable a project will be and whether it will add value to the company. While one uses a percentage, the other is expressed as a dollar figure. While some prefer using IRR as a measure of capital budgeting, it does come with problems because it doesn’t take into account changing factors such as different discount rates. However, NPV also has limitations such as being unable to compare project sizes or requiring upfront rate estimations.

Conflict Between NPV and IRR (And Problem with IRR)

Consider two projects, one with an initial outlay of $100 and one with an initial outlay of $1 million. The smaller project may have higher IRR, but the increase in firm value may be small compared to the increase in firm value of the larger project, even though its IRR is not as high. NPV and IRR are both used extensively by financial managers and investors to value the future cash flow or returns of an investment. NPV is an actual amount, using a rate of return that is assigned based on the investor’s criteria.

The results shown by NPV method are similar to that of IRR method under certain situations, whereas, the two give contradictory results under some other circumstances. However, it must be remembered that NPV method using a predetermined cut -off rate is more reliable than the IRR method for ranking two or more capital investment proposals. The NPV method recognizes the importance of market rate of interest or cost of capital.

thought on “NPV vs IRR vs PB vs PI vs ARR”

Based on NPV one would conclude that Project A is better, but IRR offers a contradictory view. The company will be able to commit their capital only to the optimal project considering the limited resources. Mutually ExclusiveMutually exclusive refers to those statistical events which cannot take place at the same time. Thus, these events are entirely independent of one another, i.e., one event’s outcome has no impact on the other event’s result. The NPV and IRR assuming a discount rate of 10%, are displayed below as follows. Without the flexibility offered by the real option, the plant is unprofitable.

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If the ratio is greater than 1, then according to the PI method, the company should accept the project since it is providing returns that are greater than the minimum return you expect . NPVor otherwise known as Net Present Value method, reckons the present value of the flow of cash, of an investment project, that uses the cost of capital as a discounting rate. On the other hand, IRR, i.e. internal rate of return is a rate of interest which matches present value of future cash flows with the initial capital outflow. In financial jargon, the internal rate of return is the discount rate or the firm’s cost of capital, which causes the present value of the project’s cash inflows to equal the initial investment. In theory, capital budgeting decisions should depend solely on forecasted cash flows and the opportunity cost of capital. The decision criterion should not be affected by managers‘ tastes, choice of accounting method, or the profitability of other independent projects.

Should IRR or NPV Be Used in Capital Budgeting?

Net present value and internal of return are two standard financial measures that can be used to evaluate and compare investments based on their potential for cash flow. The net present value estimates the outcome of a project by adding all discounted cash flows together to report a single positive or negative dollar amount. Internal Rate Of ReturnInternal rate of return is the discount rate that sets the net present value of all future cash flow from a project to zero. Thus, the NPV method is more reliable as compared to the IRR method in ranking the mutually exclusive projects. In fact, NPV is the best operational criterion for ranking mutually exclusive investment proposals. NPV or Net Present Value if the method to calculate the profitability of a project-based of tax-free future cash flows.



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If you were basing your decision on IRR, you might favor the 20% IRR project. You’re better off getting an IRR of 13% for 10 years than 20% for one year if your corporate hurdle rate is 10% during that period. NPV and IRR rank the two projects differently because they are measuring different things.

Accounting Rate of Return (ARR)

In other words, long projects with fluctuating cash flows and additional investments of capital may have multiple distinct IRR values. The root cause of the conflict between NPV and IRR is the rate of return at which differential cash flows can be reinvested. Both the NPV and IRR methods assume that the firm will reinvest all early cash flows. The NPV method implicitly assumes that early cash flows can be reinvested at the cost of capital.

It arrives at the amount to be invested in a given project so that its anticipated earnings would recover the amount invested in the project at market rate. So, NPV is much more reliable when compared to IRR and is the best approach when ranking projects that are mutually exclusive. Actually, NPV is considered the best criterion when ranking investments. Typically, one project may provide a larger IRR, while a rival project may show a higher NPV. The resulting difference may be due to a difference in cash flow between the two projects. Let’s have a look first at what each of the two discounting rates stands for.

Example XYZ limited has a two year conflict between npv and irr whose initial cash outlay is Shs. Year 1 Cash flows Shs “000” 4,000 Calculate the IRR for this project. For one, conflicting results arise because of substantial differences in the amount of capital outlay of the project proposals under evaluation.

This is not an easy concept to grasp, but this article was able to break it down into a more understandable format. Please continue to produce informative and helpful financial information such as this, for those of us that are not investors but want to learn. During the computation of Net Present Value, the discount rate is assumed to be known, and it remains constant. But, while calculating IRR, the NPV fixed at ‘0’ and the rate which fulfills such a condition is known as IRR. Re-examine the project assumptions used to calculate NPV and IRR. Make sure the assumptions used to calculate each metric are the same, and adjust if necessary.

Pooled internal rate of return computes overall IRR for a portfolio that contains several projects by aggregating their cash flows. Since NPV is an absolute measure, it will rank a project adding more dollar value higher regardless of the initial investment required. IRR is a relative measure, and it will rank projects offering best investment return higher regardless of the total value added. Independent projects are projects in which decision about acceptance of one project does not affect decision regarding others. Since we can accept all independent projects if they add value, NPV and IRR conflict does not arise.