Cut Off Rate

Updated on March 27, 2024
Article byJyotsna Suthar
Edited byJyotsna Suthar
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Cut Off Rate Meaning

Cut Off Rate refers to the minimum rate of return investors expect on a particular project. It is used in the context of capital budgeting and its primary purpose is to screen potential projects and select them based on their profitability. It outlines the minimum acceptable return a company requires from an investment to consider it worthwhile.

Cut Off Rate

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This risk-adjusted cut off rate method is a popular concept in financial management. It helps determine a project’s ability to generate returns. It is linked with several factors that lay the foundation for major investment decisions. While the cut off rate sets a minimum acceptable return, companies often choose projects that exceed the cutoff and maximize expected returns.

Key Takeaways

  • The cut off rate is a key concept in capital budgeting and financial management. It defines the minimum acceptable rate of return that investments or projects must achieve to be considered viable.
  • It is dynamic and depends on multiple factors like the investment amount, risk variables, and payback period, among other factors like the competitive landscape. Thus, if the project offers high returns considering the given parameters, it is termed viable.
  • The formula to calculate this rate is the cost of capital plus risk premium. However, in some cases, negative cash flows can also influence the rate.
  • It is advisable to use this rate in conjunction with other capital budgeting methods, such as the Internal Rate of Return, to ensure effective decision-making. 

Cut Off Rate In Financial Management Explained

Cut off rate is a vital aspect of capital budgeting that determines the possibility of a potential project being executed, given its projected profitability levels. It is a financial tool used to determine the minimum rate of return that a project can generate. So, if a project successfully exceeds the cut off rate, it will be considered since the returns over a period are expected to be significant. As this metric outlines potential returns, the cut off rate in portfolio management is a useful benchmark.

The application of the cut off rate in capital budgeting as a critical benchmark is well-known in the industry. Firms, as well as investors, mark the point as the minimum return they would receive on investments made in projects. However, by simply employing the cut off method, they are usually unable to make a decision. Hence, the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) is used as a complementary metric or tool.

The IRR helps determine the returns generated throughout the period of a project. It enables management and investors to conduct project profitability assessments, adopting a long-term perspective while doing so and securing buy-in from various stakeholders.

The risk-adjusted cut off rate method can also be compared with IRR. While the cut off rate highlights a fixed minimum acceptable return on projects, the IRR is the discount rate at which the project’s net present value (NPV) equals zero. Simply put, the IRR is a project-specific metric, but the cut off is a defined metric.

Furthermore, this rate plays a crucial role in determining a company’s debt policy. Large projects often require significant capital investments, and debt is a common source of funding. However, investing these borrowed funds wisely is critical.

The first step should be assessing a project’s suitability for debt financing by aligning its risk with its potential return and estimating its profitability while considering interest payments. Investing in the wrong projects can lead to lower returns and difficulty in repaying the principal amount. Hence, applying this benchmark rate while drafting the debt policy for project funding is important.

It is also worth noting that different projects carry varying degrees of risk, and the cut off rate should be adjusted accordingly to cover every possible risk associated with an investment.

Factors

Certain factors can influence the cut off rate in financial management, impacting the overall returns on an investment or a project. Therefore, analyzing this rate is a key step in project decision-making. Let us study these factors.

Investment amount

An important factor that strongly influences this rate is the amount of investment made. In most cases, there is a direct correlation, meaning a higher investment will require higher returns. However, most companies accept a standard cut off rate of 8% to 10% to ensure all risks are covered. It must be noted that the relation between investment amount and cut off is not perfectly linear. In some cases, an increase in the investment amount may not necessarily mean an increase in the cut off.

Period of investment or project

The duration of a project, also known as the payback period in capital budgeting, considerably affects total returns on investment. It represents the time required for the project to generate returns. Projects with longer payback periods, where returns are received in installments over time, generally merit a lower cut off. On the other hand, those with shorter payback periods that bring quick cash inflows usually require a higher cut off due to the increased urgency in recovering the capital originally invested.

Risk factors

Risk plays a vital role in determining the cut off rate in portfolio management and capital budgeting. Though projects potentially offering high returns might seem lucrative, they bring more risk, too. Therefore, a higher cut off is generally required for such projects to ensure that the anticipated rewards support the increased uncertainty. The cut off is a risk-adjusted hurdle, indicating that both returns and risk parameters have been considered while making capital budgeting decisions. Projects with low risk, where the chances of success seem high, warrant a lower rate because the need for a high minimum return normally declines in such cases.

One must note that negative cash flows, the time value of money, project complexity, and other strategic or operational considerations may also affect this rate.

How To Calculate?

Let us study the formula that helps determine the minimum rate of return on a project.

Cut off rate = Cost of Capital + Risk Premium

  • Cost of Capital: It refers to the cost of securing capital from the market, which includes both equity and debt. It is also called the minimum rate of return a firm must generate to offset its financing expenses before crossing the breakeven point. In short, what issuers consider cost becomes the return for investors. The cost of capital considers the overall cost and financial health of a business, while the cut off focuses only on a single project by studying the specific risks of a project and outlining the potential returns from it.
  • Risk Premium: It reflects the additional return required to compensate for the specific risks associated with a particular project. The higher the perceived risk of a project, the higher the required risk premium.

The cut off rate computation and IRR together typically give a comprehensive picture of how a company is likely to benefit from its investments. If the IRR of a project is more than the cut off rate, firms can accept it. However, if the IRR is less than this rate, it is better to reject the proposal.

Examples

Let us look at some examples to understand the concept better.

Example #1

Suppose Joanna is the head of the research department at Staylings Ltd. She has been working for the past three years with this firm that manufactures phones operating on Android. She has been assigned to work on a new project. The project cost is estimated to be around $1 million, and the company plans to raise capital to fund it. Staylings Ltd. decides to raise capital in the form of debt to fund the project.

Joanna was slightly skeptical about the risk involved in this. To allay her fears, she decided to calculate the cut off rate for this project. She knew the cost of capital was 8.5%, with an estimated risk of 5.4%. She based this estimation on potential competitor, technological, and operational challenges the company may encounter. Also, Joanna thought that the market may take time to accept this new product. As a result, she felt the cash flows for some years may turn negative to -2%.

Cut off rate = Cost of capital + Risk + Other factors

                       = 8.5 + 5.4 + (-2)

                       = 13.9 – 2

                       =  11.9%

The rate Joanna obtained through this calculation is reasonable, given it was higher than the industry standard. Hence, Joanna decided that the project seemed worthwhile.

Example #2

Kevin, a finance manager, was asked to evaluate the viability of a new solar farm project. The proposed investment was $5 million, and the projected annual cash flows were $1.2 million for 5 years.

  • Cost of capital: The company’s cost of capital was 7%, with a mix of debt and equity financing.
  • Industry risks: However, certain risks included changes in the regulatory environment and technological hurdles. Based on this, Kevin estimated a risk premium of 4%.
  • Cut off calculation: Applying the formula, he calculated a cut off of 11% (7% + 4%).

To strengthen his computation, Kevin decided to calculate the project’s Internal Rate of Return (IRR). He approached the management and stated that if the IRR is higher than the cut off, the project could be considered viable.

When computed, the IRR of the project came out to be 14.2%, which was higher than 11%. By carefully weighing the cut off rate, IRR, and risks, Kevin presented a comprehensive recommendations report to the management.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the cut off rate in optimal portfolio construction?

The cut off rate in optimal portfolio construction refers to the minimum acceptable expected return based on which securities can be included in the portfolio. It considers factors such as cost of capital, risk premium, and market conditions and helps investors build winning portfolios.

2. Is the hurdle rate the same as the cut off rate?

In many cases, these terms are used interchangeably. However, their application differs. While hurdle rate is used in investment decisions, the latter is more suited to corporate capital budgeting decisions.

3. What is the difference between Net Present Value (NPV) and cut off rate?

NPV measures absolute profitability, considering all project cash flows and their timing. The cut off rate defines the minimum acceptable return, acting as a useful tool for project filtering. Though both are crucial for financial analysis, they serve different purposes in project and investment evaluation.

This has been a guide to Cut Off Rate and its meaning. Here, we explain the concept along with its factors, examples, and how to calculate it. You can learn more about financing from the following articles –

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