# J-ottings 58

# Internal Rate of Return and related topics

# Norman Thomson

A common way of expressing the desirability or otherwise of an
investment is through a rate of return. There are several ways
in which ‘rate of return’ can be calculated. Comparisons
between numbers are only meaningful if the *processes* producing
the numbers are clearly and unambiguously understood. This is
where J can be of great help in sorting pathways through a
terminological jungle.

Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is a commonly used measure. To
explain how it is obtained, consider that say 5% growth in any
commodity can be calculated by applying a multiplier 1.05, and
compound growth by successive applications of this multiplier.
In a similar way a list of monetary values can be adjusted for
5% inflation by successive *divisions* by this
multiplier. The *opposite* of 5% growth is 5%
*decay* (that is growth of -5%), and successive
multiplications of 0.95 result in *exponential decay*.
However the *inverse* of growth is *not*
exponential decay, but rather the process determined by the
multiplier (1.05)^{-1}=0.9524, meaning that a
post-growth value is 95.24% of its original. In the case of
decay of, say 20%, the corresponding inverse multiplier is
(0.8)^{-1}= 1.25 corresponding to 25% . For example
under a 20% tax regime, a pre-tax value is obtained from a net
value by adding 25%, a process frequently referred to as
‘grossing up’.

The above discussion is consolidated in the following two verbs :

ptom=.%@>:@(0.01&*) NB. %age growth to inverse multiplier mtop=.100&*@<:@% NB. inverse multiplier to %age growth ptom 5 _20 0.952381 1.25 mtop 0.952381 1.25 4.99999 _20

In everyday terms this says that under an assumption of 5%
inflation a rational person would be indifferent regarding
offers of £95.24 today and a promise of £100 next year. £95.24
is said to be the *net present value* (often abbreviated to NPV)
of £100 delayed until next year.

An *income stream* is a list such as

is=._100 20 50 70 80

which describes, say, an initial investment of 100 which
produces subsequent returns of 20, 50, 70 and 80. The verb
`npv`

provides compounded net present values for a
decay rate (*discount*) given by the left argument :

npv=.]*([email protected][)^([email protected]#@]) NB. net present value 5 npv is NB. 5% decay _100 19.0476 45.3515 60.4686 65.8162 10 npv is NB. 10% decay _100 18.1818 41.3223 52.592 54.6411

The total of such lists is called the *net benefit*, and the
absolute sum of the negative items is the *cost*. The net benefit
of is before discounting is thus 120, and the cost 100. After
discounting by 5% and 10% the net benefits reduce to

each=.&> +/"(1) 5 10 npv each <is 90.6839 66.7372

Because exponential decay is not the inverse of growth the NPV
discounted streams of `is`

are different from the result of
repeated compound reduction :

is*0.95^i.5 _100 19 45.125 60.0162 65.1605 is*0.9^i.5 _100 18 40.5 51.03 52.488

Internal Rate of Return answers the question what NPV discount rate would reduce net benefit to zero. In algebraic terms, this amounts to finding a positive real-valued multiplier which satisfies the equation

0 = –100 + 20m + 50m^{2} + 70m^{3} + 80m^{4}

This can be obtained using the root finding verb `p.`

which solves
polynomials whose argument is coefficients in ascending power
order. In the verb `irr`

this is followed by a conversion to a
percentage:

[email protected]@[email protected] NB. internal rate of return roots=.>@{:@p. NB. list of roots from result of p. real=.#~ (= +) NB. select real values pos=.#~ >&0 NB. select positive values

irr is 32.3121 is%1.323121^i.5 _100 15.1158 28.5608 30.2203 26.1031 +/_100 15.1158 28.5608 30.2203 26.1031 0 NB. confirms net benefit is zero

In practical terms this means that under an inflation rate of
32.3% the underlying project would finish with no *residual*
financial worth.

(Practical note: If `irr`

fails through a limit error in `p.`

use a
standard root finding technique such as the following:

Newton=.adverb :']-x%x D.1'(^:_)("0) NB. Newton-Raphson poly=.|.is NB. define a polynomial mtop (#.&poly) Newton 0.9 32.3121 )

Applying NPV before computing `irr`

allows prior assumptions to be
made about inflation, e.g.

irr 10 npv is NB. IRR assuming 10% inflation 20.28 irr 25 npv is NB. IRR assuming 25% inflation 5.85

For the reason given earlier these values are not identical with
the `irr`

values which arise on an *a priori* exponential decay
assumption:

irr is*0.9^i.5 NB. assuming 10% exponential decay 19.08 irr is*0.75^i.5 NB. assuming 25% exponential decay _0.7659

If all the inflows are delayed until the final period, the
`irr`

value is simply the rate of compound interest
which for `is`

would turn 100 into 220 in the course
of four periods:

irr _100 0 0 0 220 21.7883 100*1.217883^4 220

## Average Growth Rate

A reasonable question to ask is why bother with the relative
complexity of IRR when a rate of return can be found by simply
calculating (inflows–outflows)÷outflows and averaging over the
number of periods. To address this, the numerator
(inflows–outflows) is just another way of expressing net
benefit, while the positive sum of the outflows are given by the
verb `costs`

. This is illustrated with two input streams which
differ only in the order of their items:

costs=./@:(0&>[email protected]) NB. outflows (i.e. sum of -ve values) is1=._100 20 45 60 _10 55 70 20 10 10 is2=._100 20 45 60 _10 10 10 20 70 55 costs each is1;is2 110 110

The *benefit-cost* ratios associated with these streams are

(+/ % costs)each is1;is2 1.636 1.636

However the stream in which high returns come later has a lower IRR :

,irr each is1;is2 30.19 25.22

showing that averaging loses some of the information implicit in ordering.

Where the term ‘benefit-cost ratio’ is used it is worth checking
that the numerator reflects *net* benefits – effectively that is
it is inherently a profit ratio. If only inflows appear in the
numerator it is a ‘selling price/cost price’ ratio and thus
related to mark-up rather than return. The verb `bcr`

first
incorporates net present value discounting into the averaging
process with the discount level set as the left argument:

bcr=.(+/%costs)@:npv NB. benefit/cost ratio with discounting 10 bcr each is1;is2 0.80926 0.67133

Since the lengths of `is1`

and `is2`

are both 10 these ratios can be
converted to an average compound growth rate by taking the 9th
root of `1.80926 1.67133`

9%:1+0.80926 0.67133 1.0681 1.0587

that is the average growth rates are roughly 7% and 6% given a discount rate of 10%. This procedure can be generalised as

ktop=.(100&*@<:) NB. transform (1+k) to 100k% root=.<:@# [email protected](([email protected]])%:(>:@bcr)) 10 agr each is1;is2 6.81 5.873

If discounting is applied at around the `irr`

value then the net
average growth rate is more or less zero:

30 agr is1 0.0527249 NB. growth rate is virtually zero (0.05%)

## Using IRR

Where values are money, choices between alternative projects can
be guided by IRRs. IRRs can be recalculated dynamically,
although they should not be used as a sole criterion since,
provided inflows are positive, IRRs carry on increasing as the
input stream lengthens, and so *increases* in the IRR tailing off
can be a signal suggesting that other statistics should be
investigated as well. In the case of `is`

successive income
streams are given by

}.<\is +-------+----------+-------------+----------------+ |_100 20|_100 20 50|_100 20 50 70|_100 20 50 70 80| +-------+----------+-------------+----------------+

and successive IRRs by

,irr each }.<\is _80 _18.5857 15.6152 32.3121

leading to

irrseq=.,@:(irr each)@}[email protected](<\) irrseq is _80 _18.5857 15.6152 32.3121

Post-initial negative items in an income stream as in `is1`

might
reflect costs incurred in developing a second version of a
product. Since polynomials of even order must have an even
number of positive roots, using `p.`

means that spurious values of
IRR will necessarily arise, as for example in

irr _100 20 45 60 _10 _85.04 6.67385

where the massive compound 85% decay is clearly inadmissible.
To deal with such circumstances it makes sense to insert a
filter at the `mtop`

level to exclude multipliers of greater than,
say 3, or, at the other end of the scale, less than 0.5, hence

filter=.#~ (<&3)*.(>&0.5) [email protected]@:[email protected]@roots irrseq is1 0 _22.18 10.22 6.674 19.96 27.96 29.33 29.82 30.19

The initial value of `_80`

following the first positive flow has
been filtered to 0. Following the third inflow of 60 the IRR
becomes positive at 10.2%, following which there is a dip to
6.67 due to the negative inflow of 10. Towards the end of the
series subsequent increases in IRR tail off as a result of
smaller inflows, a signal that benefit is tailing off.

## Annuities and Personal Finance

An annuity is a special case of an input stream where
the inflows are regular. Annuities in general are a large field
within actuarial science, although in the simplest case the
calculation has a closed form in which the multiplier
{1-(1+p)^{-n}}/p
converts repayments as a percentage of the
initial cost into a multiple of present value assuming
repayments continue for n years. In May 2014 this factor for a
single whole-of-life level annuity at age 65 was around 17.
Compare this with an annuity paid for 21 periods at 2.6% whose
multiplier is given by

ptok=.>:@*&0.01 NB. convert %age to (1+p/100) am=.4 :'100*(1-(ptok x)^-y)%x' NB. annuity multiplier 2.6 am 21 NB multiplier for .. 16.026 NB. .. 21 repayments at 2.6% irr _16.026,21#1 NB. confirmed by IRR 2.6001

Apply a 5% inflation rate and the annuity doesn’t look such a great bargain!

irr _16.026,5 npv 21#1 _1.8065

In the case of personal investment, IRR can give a rough guide
to the true worth of an investment *on completion*. Consider a
share purchase for £33.50 which attracts nine annual dividends
of £2, £2, £2, £2.50, £3, £4, £4.45, £5.25 and £4.55, after the
last of which it is sold a year later for £65.88.

is3=._33.5 2 2 2 2.5 3 4 4.45 5.25 4.55 65.88 irr is3 13.46

This indicates that over the period the investor has experienced a discount rate of about 13.5% but has no final asset – the inflows account for all benefit. However the average growth rates for 0 and 5% inflation are:

0 5 agr each <is3 11.06 6.508

indicating that under 5% inflation `is3`

has an average
profit-growth based return of 6.5%.

There are streams for which growth can be consistently negative as with

is4=._57.4 1.5 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.8 1.95 2 27.9 ;(irr;5&agr)is4 _4.051 _7.289

Nevertheless because only the first item is negative, IRR is still an increasing quantity:

;irrseq is4 _65.84 _52.32 _41.93 _34.25 _28.03 _23.22 _4.051

## Future Value Analysis

Future Value Analysis (FVA) is a variation of net present value
which, for an income stream with a single initial outflow,
expresses benefits valued at *today’s* money :

ratio=.{:@] % {:@npv NB. find the scale-up factor which ... nfv=.ratio*]@npv NB. ...leaves final npv value unchanged 5 nfv is _121.6 23.15 55.13 73.5 80

Since ratios of successive terms are unchanged there is no change either to IRRs :

,irr each (5 nfv is);5 npv is 26.01 26.01

For `is`

and `is3`

the net benefits valued at the end of the
investment period assuming 5% inflation are

(+/5 nfv is),(+/5 nfv is3) 110.2 47.94

to be compared with values at time of investment of
`+/each is;is3`

which are 120 and 62.13 respectively.
For `is3`

, the
47.94 is made up of 36.63 in dividends and 11.31 profit on sale,
all at today’s values, representing a gain of 47.94/54.57 or
87.85%. The geometrical average of this is `9 %:1.8785`

which
equals 7.3%. Three values for growth of this series have been
obtained, 13.6% from `irr`

, 6.5% from `agr`

, and now 7.3% from
`nfv`

. The need to understand measurement criteria should be
clear!

In conclusion, the techniques described here barely begin to
scrape the surface both of practical detail and of jargon.
Legitimate further questions might concern how the initial
outflow was acquired – if by borrowing this leads to further
necessary refinement of the `irr`

process. The important
message is the usefulness of J in penetrating terminology and in
understanding precisely the meanings of quantities which may be
subtler than their names suggest.