The capital investment appraisal process
: the case of Libya

  • Moftah Mohammed

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis aims to explore and investigate the state of current investment appraisal practices within Libyan firms. In particular, the thesis attempts to answer four research questions: (1) How do Libyan firms appraise capital investments? (2) Do Libyan firms incorporate risk into their capital investment appraisal processes? (3) Do Libyan firms face capital rationing and, if so, is it externally or internally imposed? and (4) Does the availability of Islamic Finance affect Libyan firms' view of the capital investment appraisal process?

    This study is based on a qualitative empirical approach, with a subjectivist orientation but a main concern with the sociology of regulation; the interpretive paradigm is employed in this thesis. Rather than simply providing a simple description of the phenomena under investigation, the aim of this thesis is to interpret and understand the issues surrounding the problem being considered. Thus, this study seeks to establish a better understanding about the nature of the capital investment appraisal process in Libyan corporations, and how it differs across Libyan economic sectors.

    In order to provide evidence and contribute to our knowledge about this topic, two research methods, both compatible with the interpretive paradigm and consistent with the methodology and the researcher’s beliefs about the topic under investigation, are employed. The research methods used are: (i) a semi-structured interviews; then (ii) a questionnaire survey based upon the literature review and on the key results from (i). For the former, 20 interviews were conducted, involving two groups: firm-based interviewees (‘insiders’ working in firms) in five economic sectors with different size and ownership structures and ‘outsider’ interviewees (bankers, academics and chartered accountants). In the second phase, 45 questionnaires were collected from firms which operate in five economic sectors, again with various size and ownership patterns.

    The main findings indicate that non-financial criteria (e.g. political priorities, State development plan and personal experience) play a more important role than financial factors. While Libyan companies use multiple techniques to appraise capital investments, usage of discounted cash flow techniques (DCF), although increasing is not yet as high as in developed nations, with payback remaining the most popular. The evidence shows that the source of the funding (followed by project size and nature of the project, respectively) also plays a role in choosing the appraisal techniques. Typically, the process of capital investment appraisal in Libya appears to have five stages (determination of budget, research and development, evaluation, authorisation, and monitoring and controlling). Libyan firms consider the first of these as the most important stage. The majority of the respondents employ a post-audit phase of two years or less; about half the sampled firms conduct the post-audit by comparing the actual performance with the feasibility study on which the project was based. The companies consider real options when looking at flexibility, but they have no effect on the choice of the appraisal techniques or the process generally. Similarly, there are no changes in the techniques or the process when advanced manufacturing technology investments are considered.

    Regarding risk evaluation, this is mostly subjective although scenario analysis and sensitivity analysis are employed to some extent. Around 50% of the firms calculate the cost of capital, but most of these firms do so subjectively (e.g. via interest rate observations), while the rest use CAPM to calculate the cost of capital. Fewer than one in ten of the firms that calculate the cost of capital employ project-specific rates.

    The majority of the companies noted their experience of capital rationing, mostly of the external variety (primarily reflecting State actions). The majority of the firms claimed to be considering the Libyan Stock Market as source of funding, but not in the near future, essentially because of a lack of knowledge among Libyan companies about its functioning.

    The findings suggest that use of Islamic finance is not yet common among Libyan firms. However, two thirds of the firms suggested that they would use Islamic financial products to finance their future projects for several reasons; mainly religion, to avoid paying interest or demurrage, plus risk sharing though the use of Islamic financial products such as Musharakah. Those firms, which did not view Islamic finance positively, mentioned the incompatibility of the current products with Islamic Shariah law, suggesting that in reality they are just traditional financial products with Islamic names.

    Some notable differences between theory and practice emerged in this research. For instance, certain non-financial criteria (e.g. political priorities) were more important than financial factors. Relatedly, there was evidence of external interested parties such as academics seeing practice and ideals differently. This type of finding suggests a key contribution of this study as highlighting the need for contextual specificities to be carefully considered when investigating an issue as (theoretically) straightforward as investment decision-making in practice.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBruce Burton (Supervisor) & David Power (Supervisor)


    • Capital investment decision-making
    • Appraisal investment techniques
    • Risk
    • Capital rationing
    • Non-financial factors
    • Different groups' perspectives
    • Islamic finance

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