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NPV, IRR, PI, PP, and DPP: a unified view

Mikhail Sokolov

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Abstract: This paper introduces a class of investment project's profitability metrics that includes the net present value criterion (which labels a project as weakly profitable if its NPV is nonnegative), internal rate of return (IRR), profitability index (PI), payback period (PP), and discounted payback period (DPP) as special cases. We develop an axiomatic characterization of this class, as well as of the mentioned conventional metrics within the class. The proposed approach offers several key contributions. First, it provides a unified interpretation of profitability metrics as indicators of a project's financial stability across various economic scenarios. Second, it reveals that, except for an NPV criterion, a profitability metric is inherently undefined for some projects. In particular, this implies that any extension of IRR to the space of all projects does not meet a set of reasonable conditions. A similar conclusion is valid for the other mentioned conventional metrics. For each of these metrics, we offer a characterization of the pairs of comparable projects and identify the largest set of projects to which the metric can be unequivocally extended. Third, our study identifies conditions under which the application of one metric is superior to others, helping to guide decision-makers in selecting the most appropriate metric for specific investment contexts.

Date: 2023-02, Revised 2023-11
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ppm
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Working Paper: NPV, IRR, PI, PP, and DPP: A Unified View (2023) Downloads
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