Home Business Shareholders Equity (Definition, Equation, Ratios, Examples)

Shareholders Equity (Definition, Equation, Ratios, Examples)

What is shareholders equity?

Where do you find shareholders equity and how do you calculate it?

What are some examples?

We will look at what is shareholders equity, stockholder equity definition, what is the accounting formula to calculate it, how to calculate it, what are its components, where to find it on the balance sheet, real-life examples of shareholders equity and more!

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What is shareholder equity

Shareholders equity, stockholders equity or shareholder net worth, indicates how much a company has raised financing or value by issuing common shares and preferred shares along with its retained profits from operations.

In other words, shareholders equity is the total asset of a company minus its total liabilities.

Said differently, if a corporation were to use its assets to pay off all its liabilities, the remaining balance would represent the shareholder equity or the shareholders’ residual claim on the company’s assets once all company debt has been paid off.

A company’s shareholder equity account is initially set with the founder or founders’ initial investment.

Then, as time goes by, the shareholder equity account fluctuates based on the investments made in the company through the issuance of common stock or preferred stock and the company’s retained earnings from its operations.

A corporation may have a positive shareholder equity value or a negative one.

A positive shareholder equity value shows that a company has enough assets on its balance sheet to cover all its debts and liabilities whereas a negative shareholder equity value shows the opposite.

Banks, investors, venture capitalists and other stakeholders may look at the company’s share equity along with other metrics to evaluate a company’s overall financial health.

Shareholders equity definition

According to the Corporate Finance Institute, shareholders equity is defined as:

Stockholders Equity (also known as Shareholders Equity) is an account on a company’s balance sheet that consists of share capital plus retained earnings. It also represents the residual value of assets minus liabilities. 

Fundamentally, stockholders equity meaning is quite simple.

Let’s break it down.

Equity” is the net value of an asset once all debt or liabilities on the asset are deducted or taken out of consideration.

Similarly, a “business equity” or “company equity” is the value of the company less all of its liabilities. 

We refer to a company’s equity (business net worth or company book value) as the shareholders equity.

Components of shareholders’ equity

A corporation’s total shareholders’ equity is affected by three main components:

  • Share capital 
  • Retained earnings
  • Dividends 

Share capital

Share capital or contributed capital represents the total financing or value received from the company’s shareholders in exchange for issuing common shares or preferred shares.

The share capital includes:

  • Common stock capital
  • Preferred stock capital 
  • Additional paid-in capital
  • Treasury share  

For example:

Company A issues 100,000 common shares at a value of $25 per share, the contributed capital will represent an amount of $2,500,000.

The more a company receives cash from equity investors, the more the share capital account will increase.

Retained earnings

Retained earnings represent the total amount of money generated by a company from its operations and not distributed to shareholders as dividends.

Typically, a company will use its retained earnings to finance its operations, keep a working capital reserve, purchase equipment or assets, pay back debt and pay for ongoing business operations and needs.

The more a company generates profits and has a positive net income, the value of the shareholders equity will increase.

On the flip side, if a company loses money from operations, the deficit or net income losses will result in a decrease in stockholders equity.


The third component impacting stockholders equity on the balance sheet is the dividends.

A company can choose to distribute profits to its shareholders in the form of dividends.

Dividends are paid out of the company’s retained earnings.

As a result, if dividends are paid, the shareholder equity value will decrease.

Shareholder equity formula

There are two methods or formulas in calculating shareholders equity:

  • Shareholders Equity = Total Assets – Total Liabilities
  • Shareholders Equity = Share Capital + Retained Earnings – Treasury Shares 

Using any of the above shareholders equity equations will allow you to ascertain the value of a company’s shareholders equity on its balance sheet.

The components of shareholders’ equity are total assets (representing current assets and long-term assets) along with total liabilities (representing current liabilities and long-term liabilities).

By extracting the total assets and liabilities information from a company’s financial statements, you can calculate shareholders equity.

Financial analysts, accountants and investors will use the shareholder equity formula to perform financial modelling on the future outlook of a company’s financial position.

Although it is not the scope of this article, there are many ways to forecast balance sheet items.

Even though the financial models can be quite complex, the shareholder equity will fundamentally be calculated the same way.

How to calculate shareholders equity

You can calculate shareholders’ equity using the basic Accounting Equation or the Investor’s Equation.

Accounting Equation

The first way to calculate shareholders equity is to use the Accounting Equation or Balance Sheet Equation.

Essentially, you take a company’s total assets and you deduct the company’s total liabilities to get your shareholders equity.

A company’s total assets represent its current and long-term assets such as:

  • Cash 
  • Account receivables 
  • short-term investments 
  • Inventory 
  • Capital assets
  • Property 
  • long-term investments
  • Equipment 
  • Intangible assets 

The current assets are assets that are liquid and can be converted to cash within the year whereas long-term assets are less liquid, held by the company for at least a year or cannot be converted to cash within a year.

The next part of the equation is the company’s total liabilities.

A company’s total liabilities represent its current and long-term liabilities such as:

  • short-term loans
  • Taxes payable 
  • Accounts payable 
  • long-term loans
  • Bond repayment 
  • Deferred revenue
  • Commercial paper 
  • Term debt 
  • Leases 
  • Pension obligations 

Current liabilities represent debt or financial obligations due within a year whereas long-term liabilities are financial obligations due for repayment in periods beyond one year.

Investor’s Equation

The second way to calculate shareholders equity is to use the company’s share capital and retained earnings information to calculate the shareholder’s equity.

To calculate the shareholders’ equity, you’ll need to:

  • Take the company’s retained earnings value representing the profits it has made from its operations
  • Add the share capital value representing how much it was able to raise in capital by issuing common and preferred stock
  • Deduct the value of shares in the treasury representing shares authorized but not yet issued by the company 

Shareholder equity ratios

There are many shareholders’ equity ratios that you can calculate using the total shareholders equity value such as debt-to-equity ratio, return on equity or the book value of equity per share.

Debt-to-Equity ratio (D/E)

Debt-to-equity ratio or D/E ratio is calculated by dividing the company’s total liabilities by the shareholders’ equity.

For example:

Company A has a total liabilities of $200,000 and shareholder equity of $100,000.

The debt-to-equity ratio will be 2 ($200,000 divided by $100,000)

The higher the D/E ratio, the more investors may be concerned of the company’s financial health and overall indebtedness. 

Book value per share (BVPS)

Book value per share (BVPS) represents the value available to common shareholders divided by the total number of outstanding shares in a company.

The BVPS formula is total equity less preferred equity divided by total shares outstanding.

For example:

Company A has total equity of $100,000 where $25,000 is preferred share equity and $75,000 common share equity.

The company has a total of 10,000 outstanding shares.

The BVPS will be $7.5 ($100,000 – $25,000 / 10,000)

Return on Equity ratio (ROE)

Equity investors can calculate the return generated by the company on their equity investment using the return on equity ratio (ROE).

The Return on Equity is essentially a company’s net income divided by the shareholders equity.

For example:

If investors bought $100,000 worth of common or preferred shares (equity investment) and the company generated $1,000,000 in net income, the company’s ROE ratio would be 10 ($1,000,000 net income / $100,000 investment).

Stockholders equity example

Let’s look at an example of shareholders equity with some real-life numbers.

Let’s look at Apple Inc’s consolidated balance sheet to calculate its shareholders equity.

Here is an extract of Apple Inc’s balance sheet:

Shareholders equity Apple Inc

As you can see, Appel reports the following figures:

  • Current assets: $134,973
  • Long-term assets: $187,266
  • Current liabilities: $89,704
  • Long-term liabilities: $136,079

Appel’s total assets represent $322,239 million whereas its total liabilities amount to $225,783 million.

Therefore, Apple’s shareholder equity can be calculated by deducting the total liabilities from the total assets giving us a value of $96,456 million.

Shareholders equity FAQ

Shareholders Equity FAQ

What is common shareholders equity

The common shareholders equity is the value of the common shares on a company’s balance sheet.

It represents the amount a company has received in cash or value from issuing common shares to equity investors.

Typically, it appears as a line item within the share capital account as “common share capital” or “common stock capital”.

What is included in shareholders equity

Shareholders equity is the value obtained by taking a company’s total balance sheet assets less total balance sheet liability.

By rearranging the basic accounting equation (Assets = Liabilities + shareholders equity), you can calculate shareholders equity using the shareholders equity equation (shareholders equity = Assets – Liabilities).

Assets include:

  • Current assets (assets available to the company in cash or liquid form within a period of one year)
  • Long-term assets (assets available to the company in cash or liquid no less than one year from the current period)

Liabilities include:

  • Current liabilities (debt or liabilities owed and payable by the company within a year)
  • Long-term liabilities (debt or liabilities owed and payable by the company after a period of one year)

What is shareholders equity on a balance sheet

Shareholders equity on the balance sheet represents the accumulated profits earnings by a company over years along with all the cash received from investors who purchased equity stocks in the company less any dividends paid to shareholders.

You can also consider the shareholders equity to represent a company’s residual value left to stockholders once all the company’s assets are liquidated, business creditors and company debt are fully paid. 

With negative shareholder equity, the stockholders will have no residual value as there will not be enough money to pay the company’s creditors and debtholders.

With positive shareholder equity, the stockholders can expect to receive a distribution of money left to stockholders when all the company’s debts and liabilities have been paid off.

Is total equity the same as shareholders equity

Total equity and shareholders equity may not refer to the same thing.

Shareholder’s equity is the “book value” of a company’s equity less all liabilities.

In other words, it represents an accounting value that is different from a company’s market value or actual value.

Total equity can refer to actual equity value or equity book value.

If you are referring to actual equity, you are essentially considering the total market value of the company’s assets less its total liabilities.

In this case, the total equity (market value) will not equate total shareholder equity (book value).

If you consider total equity from a book value perspective, then total equity (book value) can be equal to total shareholder equity expressed in book value on a company’s balance sheet.

What are the components of shareholders’ equity

There are various components that can affect the value of shareholders’ equity:

  • Share capital (contributed capital)
  • Paid-in capital 
  • Retained earnings
  • Treasure shares
  • Net income
  • Other accumulated income 
  • Dividends 

Why do equity investors care about shareholders equity

Company shareholders are generally more interested in the company’s shareholder equity than bondholders or debtholders.

In the event of a company’s liquidation, debtholders and creditors will be paid before shareholders and will have priority.

On the other hand, shareholders can only expect to receive liquidation residual value when all of the company’s liabilities are paid off using the company’s assets.

As a result, if the shareholder equity value is positive, equity shareholders know they can expect to receive residual asset value in the company.

If a corporation has negative shareholders’ equity, equity investors will not get any residual asset value as the company must use its assets to pay off all outstanding liabilities first.

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