Definition of Outstanding Shares

Financial Terms Beginning with O

What are Outstanding Shares

Outstanding shares are the total number of shares of a company's stock that are currently held by all of its shareholders, including institutional investors, company insiders and individual investors. These shares represent the ownership of the company and are used to calculate a variety financial metrics, such as earnings per share (EPS) and market capitalization.

Outstanding shares can change over time due to some corporate actions, such as issuing new shares through stock offerings, employee stock options or stock-based acquisitions, as well as buying back shares through share repurchase programs. An increase in outstanding shares can dilute the value of each share, while a decrease can increase the value of each share.


Calculating Outstanding Shares for a Publicly Traded Company

Outstanding shares for a publicly traded company are typically calculated by looking at the company's stock issuance and repurchase history. A general overview of how you calculate outstanding shares is as follows:

  • Start with the initial number of shares issued: When a company goes public through an initial public offering (IPO) or a direct listing, it issues a specific number of shares. This initial figure is the starting point for calculating outstanding shares.
  • Account for stock splits and reverse stock splits: Over the lifetime of a company, it may decide to split its stock, which increases the number of shares outstanding, or conduct a reverse stock split, which decreases the number of shares outstanding. Adjust the initial number of shares accordingly to reflect these changes.
  • Consider additional share issuances: A company may issue additional shares for a variety of reasons, such as secondary offerings, acquisitions or to raise capital. Add the number of these newly issued shares to the outstanding share count.
  • Factor in share repurchases or stock buybacks: A company may buy back its own shares, which reduces the number of shares outstanding. Subtract the number of repurchased shares from the outstanding share count.
  • Include exercised employee stock options and grants: Employees may receive stock options or grants as part of their compensation packages. When these stock options or grants are exercised, the number of outstanding shares increases. Add these shares to the outstanding share count.
  • Obtain the most recent figures: For the most up-to-date numbers on outstanding shares, check the company's most recent financial statements, such as the 10-K or 10-Q filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the equivalent regulatory body in the company's home country. These filings typically include a section detailing the number of outstanding shares as of the filing date.

Why are the Outstanding Shares Important

There are several reasons why it is important to know how many shares are outstanding for a publicly traded company.

  • Market Capitalization: Outstanding shares are used to calculate a company's market capitalization, which is the total value of all its shares in the stock market. Market capitalization is calculated by multiplying the number of outstanding shares by the current share price. This metric helps investors gauge the size and value of a company, making it easier to compare companies within the same industry.
  • Earnings per Share (EPS): EPS is a key financial metric used to evaluate a company's profitability. It is calculated by dividing a company's net income by the number of outstanding shares. A higher EPS typically indicates better financial performance, as compared to a lower EPS, which can impact a company's stock price.
  • Ownership and Voting Rights: Outstanding shares represent the total ownership of a company. As a shareholder, knowing the number of outstanding shares can help you determine your ownership stake and voting rights in the company. Generally, the more shares you own, the greater your influence over corporate decisions.
  • Stock Valuation: Many financial ratios and metrics, such as the price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio or the price-to-sales (P/S) ratio, need to know the number of outstanding shares to assess the relative value of a stock. These ratios help investors make informed decisions about buying or selling a stock based on its perceived value.
  • Share Dilution and Concentration: Changes in the number of outstanding shares can impact the value of each share. When a company issues more shares, existing shareholders may experience dilution, which can decrease the value of their holdings. Conversely, when a company buys back shares, existing shareholders may benefit from an increase in value and a greater ownership stake.
  • Dividend Payments: Dividends are often paid to shareholders on a per-share basis, so knowing the number of outstanding shares can help investors estimate their potential dividend income from owning a stock.

Understanding the number of shares outstanding is crucial for investors who want to make informed decisions about buying, selling or holding a company's stock, as well as for evaluating the company's financial health and performance.

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Related Investment Terms

Common Stock


Preferred Stock

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