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What is NPV?

NPV is the acronym for net present value. Net present value is a calculation that compares the amount invested today to the present value of the future cash receipts from the investment. In other words, the amount invested is compared to the future cash amounts after they are discounted by a specified rate of return.

For example, an investment of $500,000 today is expected to return $100,000 of cash each year for 10 years. The $500,000 being spent today is already a present value, so no discounting is necessary for this amount. However, the future cash receipts of $100,000 for 10 years need to be discounted to their present value. Let's assume that the receipts are discounted by 14% (the company's required return). This will mean that the present value of the those future receipts will be approximately $522,000. The $522,000 of present value coming in is compared to the $500,000 of present value going out. The result is a net present value of $22,000 coming in. 

Investments with a positive net present value would be acceptable. Investments with a negative net present value would be unacceptable.