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payback perioda criterion used in INVESTMENT APPRAISAL to evaluate the desirability of an INVESTMENT project. Payback calculations involve measuring the CASH FLOWS associated with a project and indicate how long it takes for an investment to generate sufficient cash to recover in full its original capital outlay. For example, if a machine costs £5,000 to purchase at the start of year 1, then generates net cash inflows from the sale of products made by the machine of £5,000 in year 1 and £3,000 in year 2 then it would recoup the initial cash outlay in the first year. If a firm's target payback period for new investment projects was, say, two years or less, then this particular project would be undertaken.
Whether or not the machine pays back its initial outlay in one year depends upon how accurate the future estimates of sales volumes, selling prices, materials costs etc. turn out to be. Since all investments involve assessments of future re-venues and costs they are all subject to a degree of uncertainty. This problem, in part, can be handled by undertaking sensitivity analysis, by making not one but three estimates for each item of project cost or revenue (‘optimistic’, ‘most likely’, ‘pessimistic’) to indicate the range of possible outcomes.
payback methodthe period it takes for an INVESTMENT to generate sufficient cash to recover in full its original capital outlay. For example, a machine that cost £1,000 and generated a net cash inflow of £250 per year would have a payback period of four years. See also DISCOUNTED CASH FLOW, INVESTMENT APPRAISAL.
An estimate of the time that will be necessary for an investor to recoup the initial investment.It is used to compare investments that might have different initial capital requirements.