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The NPV formula is a way of calculating the Net Present Value (NPV) of a series of cash flows based on a specified discount rate. The NPV formula can be very useful for financial analysis and financial modeling when determining the value of an investment (a company, a project, a cost-saving initiative, etc.).
Below is an illustration of the NPV formula for a single cash flow.
In most cases, a financial analyst needs to calculate the net present value of a series of cash flows, not just one individual cash flow. The formula works in the same way, however, each cash flow has to be discounted individually, and then all of them are added together.
Here is an illustration of a series of cash flows being discounted:
Below is a short video explanation of how the formula works, including a detailed example with an illustration of how future cash flows become discounted back to the present.
The main use of the NPV formula is in Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) modeling in Excel. In DCF models an analyst will forecast a company’s three financial statements into the future and calculate the company’s Free Cash Flow to the Firm (FCFF). Additionally, a terminal value is calculated at the end of the forecast period. Each of the cash flows in the forecast and terminal value are then discounted back to the present using a hurdle rate of the firm’s weighted average cost of capital (WACC).
Thank you for reading this guide to calculating net present value. CFI’s mission is to help anyone become a world-class financial analyst. To keep learning and advancing your career, these additional financial resources will be a big help:
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