Shareholders’ Equity

The amount of money invested in a firm by its owners. It is also known as owner’s equity

Author: Austin Anderson
Austin Anderson
Austin Anderson
Consulting | Data Analysis

Austin has been working with Ernst & Young for over four years, starting as a senior consultant before being promoted to a manager. At EY, he focuses on strategy, process and operations improvement, and business transformation consulting services focused on health provider, payer, and public health organizations. Austin specializes in the health industry but supports clients across multiple industries.

Austin has a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and a Masters of Business Administration in Strategy, Management and Organization, both from the University of Michigan.

Reviewed By: Himanshu Singh
Himanshu Singh
Himanshu Singh
Investment Banking | Private Equity

Prior to joining UBS as an Investment Banker, Himanshu worked as an Investment Associate for Exin Capital Partners Limited, participating in all aspects of the investment process, including identifying new investment opportunities, detailed due diligence, financial modeling & LBO valuation and presenting investment recommendations internally.

Himanshu holds an MBA in Finance from the Indian Institute of Management and a Bachelor of Engineering from Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology.

Last Updated:September 28, 2023

What Is A Shareholders' Equity (SE)?

Shareholders' equity is the amount of money invested in a firm by its owners. It is also known as owner's equity.

It comprises direct investments and the accumulation of income produced by the firm and reinvested since its inception. It portrays the financial health and stability of the company. It can also show if the owners are reinvesting in their business.

It appears on a company's balance sheet and financial statements, along with information on assets and liabilities. Furthermore, shareholder equity is not the same as the company's assets. 

On a balance sheet, assets are what the company has; they always equal liabilities plus shareholders' equity.

The owner's equity reflects a company's economic stability and gives information about its financial performance. One approach to learning about a company's financial health is looking at the balance sheet.

Equity is computed by dividing a company's total liabilities by its total assets. Retained earnings are not distributed to shareholders as dividends but are instead reinvested to further the company's growth.

The shareholder value of a corporation should not be confused with its liquidation value. This is because, during liquidation, a company's physical asset value is diminished, and other special conditions are considered.

A balance sheet will typically have two columns: a column on the left listing assets and a right column listing liabilities and owner's equity. Some balance sheets list assets first, followed by liabilities, with the equity of investors presented at the bottom.

When a company creates or keeps earnings, its stockholders' equity rises, which helps balance debt and withstand unexpected losses.

A higher owner's equity indicates a stronger buffer for most businesses, giving them the flexibility to recover if they suffer losses or must incur debt due to an economic downturn.

Furthermore, shareholder's equity can indicate a company's financial health; in many circumstances, investors avoid firms with negative shareholder's equity. Finally, investors can see a company's assets and liabilities through its shareholder equity.

The total assets of a corporation, including current and fixed assets, and liabilities, which are comprised of both current and long-term debt obligations, are calculated. 

A company's debts are subtracted from its assets, and the leftover value is the shareholders' equity.

In practice, investors want firms with positive shareholder equity. As a result, financial experts consider a firm's retained earnings and its owner's equity when analyzing its financial soundness. 

The degree of return generated by a corporation after it has cleared its obligations is also determined by the owner's equity.

Categories of Equity

The four equity categories include common shares, preferred shares, pain-in capital, and retained earnings.

1. Common shares

Common shares are distributed to business owners and other investors as confirmation of their investment in a company. As a result, common shareholders have the smallest claim on the property of any shareholder. 

They are one component of a company's shareholder equity, including any preferred shares issued and retained earnings.

Dividends are given to common shareholders after preferred stockholders. However, if a corporation must liquidate its assets, common shareholders are not compensated until all creditors have been paid and preferred owners have been repaid.

Because shares are unsecured investments, a corporation is not compelled to return shareholders for their initial investment unless it is expressly stated in writing.

2. Preferred shares

Preferred shares are given to business owners and other investors as confirmation of their investment in a company. They are one component of a company's shareholder equity, ordinary stock, and retained earnings.

Preferred shareholders get dividends before regular shareholders and have the first claim to assets if the firm is liquidated. They are paid once all creditors' obligations have been satisfied.

Preferred share investments, like ordinary stock, are unsecured but given certain payment terms. Dividends are used to make the payments. However, they are not legally required until the corporation reports the payments.

3. Paid-in capital

Paid-in capital is the amount of money a corporation raises via the issuance of shares to investors. It is determined by adding common, preferred, and extra paid-in capital to the balance sheet's line items.

The par value of common stock and preferred stock is recorded. Each share of stock has a notional value attributed to it. The remainder of contributed capital is allocated to additional paid-in capital, frequently referred to as capital surplus. 

Both of these line items are reported at their initial quantities and are not adjusted as the market rate fluctuates.

4. Retained earnings

Retained earnings are the profits left over after a corporation has paid all its direct and indirect costs, income taxes, and stock dividends. This is the percentage of the company's equity that may be utilized to invest in R&D, equipment, marketing, etc.

Accumulated retained earnings are called accumulated profits. Retained earnings are shown in the shareholders' equity column on the balance sheet. Most financial accounts devote a whole section to calculating retained profits. 

Remember that, before making a loan to a corporation, banks look at retained earnings. Therefore, the computation of retained earnings may be seen on the income statement for small organizations.

Components of Shareholders' Equity

There are three components of shareholder's equity: share capital retained earnings and net income & dividends.

1. Share capital

Share capital is the sum of funds invested in a firm by its owners, represented by common and/or preference shares.

Share capital differs from shareholder equity in that it excludes retained earnings. It is exclusively made up of the equity owners who have invested in the firm by acquiring shares.

The company's worth cannot be calculated using its share capital. Instead, the current market value of each share must be considered, which is usually more than the nominal value. The share premium is the difference between the nominal and market values.

A significant share capital value might give the impression that a corporation is more financially stable. This is because shareholders may be more willing to support a company with a substantial paid-up share capital.

However, looks may be deceiving, and raising a company's share capital does not always make it a safer option in the eyes of experienced investors. As a result, some businesses will seek to expand their share capital as an alternative to a loan.

The benefit is that there are no interest payments or requirements to return the investment. Despite dividends being frequently given to shareholders, this depends on the firm's performance, and there is no legal requirement to pay dividends.

2. Retained earnings

Retained earnings are the revenue that remains with the firm after the payout of dividends to shareholders. In the event of a net loss in any fiscal year, a firm cannot pay dividends or have retained earnings.

A firm may use earnings to distribute dividends, offering a reward to owners. They can also keep the remaining earnings by moving them to reserves. 

The firm's earnings might be reinvested in expansion initiatives. A firm's shareholders invest with the expectation of profit. 

Certain shareholders anticipate a dividend as a return on their investment from the firm. In other circumstances, investors trade stocks or invest for capital appreciation due to the growth created by reinvesting all profits. This growth can be reduced if part of earnings is given out as a dividend.

Retained earnings are shown in the shareholders' equity column on the balance sheet. Most financial accounts devote a whole section to calculating retained profits. 

Retained Earnings (RE) = Initial Retained Earnings + Net Income/Loss - Cash Dividends - Stock Dividends

3. Net income & dividends

Net income is the entire sum of funding made by your company over a certain period, less all business expenditures, taxes, and interest. It assesses the profitability of your business. It is also referred to as net earnings or net profit.

Net income is one of the essential line items on an income statement. Your income statement shows how much money enters and exits your firm throughout the period.

Net profit can be either positive or negative. You have a positive net income when your corporation's sales exceed its costs. 

You have a negative net income, also known as a net loss, if your costs exceed your total revenue.

Understanding net income is critical because it clarifies efficient your firm is, how much can be spent on expansion, if changes need to be made, etc.

Net income = Revenue - Cost of Goods Sold - Expenses

How to Calculate Shareholders’ Equity

There are mainly two formulas to calculate. They are:

Shareholders Equity = Total Assets - Total Liabilities


Shareholders equity = Share Capital + Retained Earnings - Treasury Stock

Assets create value for your organization and raise its equity value, which can be exchanged for cash. Assets include building, land, inventory, and equipment.

Assets can be categorized into current assets and fixed assets. 

Current assets are generally goods that your company utilizes in its daily operations and will own for less than a year. 

Current assets create cash flow for the firm and may be liquidated swiftly to support continuing operations and meet costs—for example, accounts receivable, cash & cash equivalents, and debt securities.

Non-current assets are assets your company keeps for more than a year and utilize to generate long-term revenue. They are also known as fixed assets, for example, buildings, land, and equipment.

Liabilities are the debts owed to third-party creditors by a firm. They reduce value and equity. For example, accounts payable, bonds payable, and long-term debt.

The greater your assets exceed your obligations, the stronger your company's financial health. However, if you have more obligations than assets, you may be on the verge of going bankrupt.

Shareholders' equity, also known as owner's equity, is the difference between a company's total assets and total liabilities. A firm reports the components and total owner's equity in quarterly or yearly filings. 

Shareholder equity comprises original paid-up capital, preferred/common shares, and earnings retained after paying for dividends and share buybacks.

Shareholders' Equity Examples

The following are two examples based on shareholders' equity.

Example 1: ABC is a company that manufactures paint. The following items are required to calculate shareholder's equity:

  • Equipment = $5,000
  • Building = $2,000
  • Long-term debt = $1,000
  • Land = $1,000
  • Bonds payable = $500

Shareholder's equity = Total assets - total liabilities

= ($5,000 + $2,000 + $1,000) - ($1,000 - $500)

= $8,000 - $1,500 = $6,500  

This is one of the formulas that can be used, with total assets and total liabilities being used to calculate owner's equity.

Example 2: A small business owner manufactures computer accessories. The following items are required to calculate the owner's equity:

  • Share capital = $10,000
  • Retained earnings = $5,000
  • Treasury stock = $2,000

Owner’s equity = Share capital + retained earnings - treasury stock

= $10,000 + $5,000 - $2,000

= $13,000

This is the other formula, where share capital, retained earnings, and treasury stock is needed to formulate owner's equity.

Shareholders' Equity FAQs

Researched and authored by Ajay Kumar Sahoo | LinkedIn

Reviewed and edited by James Fazeli-Sinaki | LinkedIn

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