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IFT Notes for Level I CFA® Program
IFT Notes for Level I CFA® Program

R32 Capital Budgeting

Part 1


1.  Introduction

Capital budgeting is the process that companies use for decision-making on long-term projects.

Capital budgeting is important because:

  • It helps decide the future of many corporations. Most capital investments require huge investments that are not easy to reverse.
  • It can be adopted for many other corporate decisions such as investment in working capital, leasing, and mergers and acquisitions.

The valuation principles used in capital budgeting are used in security valuation and portfolio management. These principles deal with projecting and then discounting cash flows to determine if the project adds value. Capital budgeting decisions are consistent with the management goal of maximizing shareholder value.

2.  The Capital Budgeting Process

Steps in Capital Budgeting Process

The steps in the capital budgeting process are as follows:

Step 1 – Generating ideas: Most important step in the process. Investment ideas can come from anywhere within the organization, or outside (customers, vendors, etc.). What projects can add value to the company in the long term?

Step 2 – Analyzing individual proposals: Gathering information to forecast cash flows for each project and then computing the project’s profitability. Output of this step: A list of profitable projects.

Step 3 – Planning and capital budgeting: Do the profitable projects fit in with the company’s long-term strategy? Is the timing appropriate? Some projects may be profitable in isolation but not so much when considered along with the other projects. Scheduling and prioritizing of projects is important.

Step 4 – Monitoring and post-audit: Post-audit helps in assessing how effective the capital budgeting process was. How do the actual revenues, expenses, and cash flows compare against the predictions? Post-auditing is useful in three ways:

  • If the predictions were optimistic or too conservative, then it becomes evident here.
  • Helps improve business operations. Puts the focus on out-of-line sales and costs.
  • Helps in identifying profitable areas for fresh investments in the future, or scale down in non-profitable ones.

Categories of Capital Budgeting Process

Capital budgeting projects may be divided into the following categories:

  • Replacement projects: Analyzing whether the replacement of existing equipment would be profitable.
  • Expansion projects: Constructing a new plant or expanding capacity of the existing one.
  • New products and services: Diversifying current business operations to maintain a competitive edge.
  • Mandatory projects: Regulatory safety and environmental laws, mandated by a governmental agency or an insurance company.
  • Other projects: Pet projects of senior management or high-uncertainty projects like R&D projects that are difficult to analyze using the traditional methods.

3.  Basic Principles of Capital Budgeting

The following are the five key principles of capital budgeting:

  1. Decisions should be based on incremental cash flows (not on accounting income as it is based on accrual basis):
  • Exclude sunk costs: For example, already incurred costs like preliminary consulting fees should not be included in the analysis.
  • Include externalities – Both positive/negative externalities should be considered in the analysis. For example, negative impact of a new diet soda product launch on the sales of existing soda products.
  • A project has conventional cash flows if the sign of cash flows changes only once during the life of the project, while an unconventional cash flow project has more than one sign change.
  1. Timing of cash flows is vital: Due to the time value of money, cash flows received earlier are more valuable than cash flows received later.
  2. Cash flows are based on opportunity cost: For example, if you plan to use an existing office space rather than renting it out, then rental income from an office space is an opportunity cost.
  3. Cash flows are analyzed on an after-tax basis: Shareholder value increases only on the cash that they have earned. Hence, any tax expenses must be deducted from the cash flows.
  4. Financial costs are ignored: Financial costs are already included in the cost of capital (discount rates) used to discount cash flows to arrive at the present value. Hence, to avoid double counting, they must not be deducted from the cash flows.

Independent projects vs. mutually exclusive projects: Independent projects are unrelated projects that can be analyzed separately, while mutually exclusive projects compete with each other. Two independent projects can both be executed if they individually meet the criteria. If two projects are mutually exclusive, then either of the two can be undertaken, not both.

Project sequencing: Certain projects are linked through time, i.e. completion of one project creates an opportunity to invest in another project later based on its profitability.

Unlimited funds vs. capital rationing: A firm can undertake all profitable projects if it has access to unlimited funds. A company having limited capital however, must prioritize and allocate funds to projects that maximize shareholder value.

IFT Notes for Level I CFA® Program
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