How rational are investment decisions in the copper industry?
This paper examines ex-post 51 investment decisions made in regard to copper mines coming on stream from 1957 through 1999. It discusses two critical variables: investment timing and mine capacity choice. Using a 15% discount rate, results suggest that fewer than half of decisions were made at the right time - i.e., low price periods - confirming countercyclical investment as the optimal policy. In terms of capacity choice, the distortion is even higher, as 36 projects should have entered at least 40% larger or smaller. Realized investment decisions for timing and capacity choice would have caused a 49.1% loss over the NPV potentially achievable under optimal resolutions. Although the difference could be specifically attributed to copper price uncertainty, this paper discusses how investment evaluation methodologies could be contributing to firms not being fully rational (in the neoclassical sense) when investing.
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