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If Murphy waits then it will, of course, make the investment only if demand is sufficient to yield a positive NPV. Observe that this real timing option resembles a call option on a stock.

Strategic Investment

Approach 1. Based just on this DCF analysis, Murphy should accept the project. Approach 2. DCF Analysis with a Qualitative Consideration of the Timing Option The discounted cash flow analysis suggests that the project should be accepted, but just barely, and it ignores the existence of a possibly valuable real option. However, accepting now means that it is also giving up the option to wait and learn more about market demand before making the commitment. Put another way: Without doing any additional calculations, does it appear that Murphy should go forward now or wait? In thinking about this decision, first note that the value of an option is higher if the current value of the underlying asset is high relative to its strike price, other things held constant.

Here the option has a 1-year life, which is fairly long for an option, and this also suggests that the option is probably valuable. Finally, we know that the value of an option increases with the risk of the underlying asset.

Real Options Analysis - Crazy

The data used in the DCF analysis indicate that the project is quite risky, which again suggests that the option is valuable. Approach 3.

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  • Real Option Definition.

Scenario Analysis and Decision Trees Part 1 of Figure presents a scenario analysis and decision tree similar to the examples in Chapter Each branch shows the cash flows and probability of a scenario laid out as a time line. Therefore, each of the project cash flows is discounted back one more year than in Part 1. The expected NPV is the weighted average of the three possible outcomes, where the weight for each outcome is its probability.

Clearly, the project is quite risky under the analysis thus far. Part 2 is set up similarly to Part 1 except that it shows what happens if Murphy delays the decision and then implements the project only if demand turns out to be high or average.


No cost is incurred now at Year 0—here the only action is to wait. If demand is low, as shown on the bottom branch, Murphy will spend nothing at Year 1 and will receive no cash flows in subsequent years. Because all cash flows under the low-demand scenario are zero, the NPV in this case will also be zero. This plainly indicates that the option to wait is valuable; hence Murphy should wait until Year 1 before deciding whether to proceed with the investment. However, this is not appropriate for three reasons. Our flagship business publication has been defining and informing the senior-management agenda since Our learning programs help organizations accelerate growth by unlocking their people's potential.

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  • Elements of Real Analysis.

McKinsey uses cookies to improve site functionality, provide you with a better browsing experience, and to enable our partners to advertise to you. Detailed information on the use of cookies on this Site, and how you can decline them, is provided in our cookie policy. Having financial options affords the freedom to make optimal choices in decisions, such as when and where to make a specific capital expenditure.

Various management choices to make investments can give companies real options to take additional actions in the future, based on existing market conditions. In short, real options are about companies making decisions and choices that grant them the greatest amount of flexibility and potential benefit regarding possible future decisions or choices.

An Incomplete Tool Kit

The choices that corporate managers face that typically fall under real options analysis are under three categories of project management. The first group is options relating to the size of a project. Depending on the ROV analysis, options may exist to expand, contract, or expand and contract the project over time, given various contingencies. Real options are most appropriate when the environment and market conditions relating to a particular project are highly volatile and flexible. Stable or rigid environments will not benefit much from ROV and should use more traditional corporate finance techniques instead.

The McDonald's Corporation MCD has restaurants in more than nations, and let's say the company's executives are mulling the decision to open additional restaurants in Russia. The expansion would fall under the category of a real option to expand. The investment or capital outlay would need to be calculated, including the cost of the physical buildings, land, staff, and equipment. However, McDonald's executives would need to decide if the revenue earned from the new restaurants will be enough to counter any potential country and political risk, which is difficult to value.

The same scenario could also produce a real option to wait or defer opening any restaurants until a particular political situation resolves itself. Perhaps there's an upcoming election, and the result could impact the stability of the country or the regulatory environment.

Real Option

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"Option games": Filling the hole in the valuation toolkit for strategic investment | McKinsey

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