What are Outstanding Shares

A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Outstanding Shares

What are Outstanding Shares?

At its core, outstanding shares refer to the total number of shares of a company’s stock held by its shareholders. These shares are actively held by investors, both institutional and individual alike, and represent ownership in the company. Understanding this concept is crucial for anyone looking to navigate the world of stocks and investments.

Types of Outstanding Shares

There are two primary types of outstanding shares: common shares and preferred shares.

Common Shares

Common shares, also known as common stock, are the most typical form of company ownership. Holders of common shares are entitled to vote on company decisions and may receive dividends if the company chooses to distribute them.

Preferred Shares

Preferred shares, on the other hand, offer shareholders a different set of benefits. These shareholders usually receive dividends before common shareholders and have a higher claim on company assets in the event of bankruptcy. However, they often lack voting rights.

Calculating Outstanding Shares

The formula for calculating outstanding shares is relatively simple:

Outstanding Shares = Issued Shares - Treasury Shares

Issued shares represent the total number of shares a company has offered to the public or issued to private investors. On the other hand, treasury shares are shares that a company has repurchased from the market. Subtracting treasury shares from issued shares gives you the number of outstanding shares.

Importance for Investors

Outstanding shares provide valuable information to investors. They are a crucial component in calculating various financial metrics like earnings per share (EPS) and market capitalization. Let’s explore these concepts:

Earnings Per Share (EPS)

EPS is a financial indicator that shows the portion of a company’s profit allocated to each outstanding share of common stock. It’s calculated by dividing the company’s net income by the number of outstanding shares. Investors use EPS to assess a company’s profitability and to compare it with other companies in the same industry.

Market Capitalization

Market capitalization, often referred to as market cap, is the total value of a company’s outstanding shares in the stock market. It’s calculated by multiplying the company’s stock price by the number of outstanding shares. Market cap is a key metric for determining a company’s size and relative value in the market.

Dilution and Ownership

Understanding outstanding shares is particularly important when considering ownership dilution. When a company issues more shares, it can lead to dilution of ownership for existing shareholders. This means that each shareholder’s ownership stake becomes smaller as the company issues more shares.

Impact on Voting Rights

Outstanding shares also play a role in determining voting rights. In most cases, each outstanding share grants the shareholder one vote in company decisions. This means that the more outstanding shares an investor holds, the greater their influence on corporate decisions.

Stock Splits and Outstanding Shares

Stock splits can affect the number of outstanding shares. In a stock split, a company increases the number of shares outstanding while proportionally reducing the stock price. For example, in a 2-for-1 stock split, each shareholder receives two shares for every one they previously held, effectively halving the stock price.


What exactly are outstanding shares?

Outstanding shares refer to the total number of shares of a company’s stock that are currently held by shareholders, including institutional investors and individuals.

How do outstanding shares differ from authorized shares?

Authorized shares are the maximum number of shares a company is allowed to issue, while outstanding shares are the shares that have already been issued and are held by investors.

How are outstanding shares calculated?

To calculate outstanding shares, divide the company’s total market capitalization by the stock’s current market price per share.

Why do outstanding shares matter for investors?

Outstanding shares play a crucial role in determining ownership percentages, voting rights, and earnings per share for investors.

Can outstanding shares change over time?

Yes, outstanding shares can change due to factors such as stock splits, buybacks, issuance of new shares, and conversions of convertible securities.

Share this article
Shareable URL
Prev Post

Understanding the Stock Float: Definition and Importance

Next Post

Understanding the Basics: What is a Stock Float?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read next

Invest in these stocks right now!

Popup demo

Invest now!

Demo pop-up for Crypto

Seraphinite AcceleratorOptimized by Seraphinite Accelerator
Turns on site high speed to be attractive for people and search engines.