The ownership value in an entity after subtracting liabilities from assets. It represents the ownership stake's worth, entitling holders to assets and profits alongside risks.

Author: David Bickerton
David Bickerton
David Bickerton
Asset Management | Financial Analysis

Previously a Portfolio Manager for MDH Investment Management, David has been with the firm for nearly a decade, serving as President since 2015. He has extensive experience in wealth management, investments and portfolio management.

David holds a BS from Miami University in Finance.

Reviewed By: Kevin Henderson
Kevin Henderson
Kevin Henderson
Private Equity | Corporate Finance

Kevin is currently the Head of Execution and a Vice President at Ion Pacific, a merchant bank and asset manager based Hong Kong that invests in the technology sector globally. Prior to joining Ion Pacific, Kevin was a Vice President at Accordion Partners, a consulting firm that works with management teams at portfolio companies of leading private equity firms.

Previously, he was an Associate in the Power, Energy, and Infrastructure Investment Banking group at Lazard in New York where he completed numerous M&A transactions and advised corporate clients on a range of financial and strategic issues. Kevin began his career in corporate finance roles at Enbridge Inc. in Canada. During his time at Enbridge Kevin worked across the finance function gaining experience in treasury, corporate planning, and investor relations.

Kevin holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from Queen's University and is a CFA Charterholder.

Last Updated:January 7, 2024

What Is Equity?

In finance, equity is a very important concept. It's about ownership and having a share in items mainly related to businesses, as well as other assets. Imagine you own part of a company or a piece of land – that's what this term is about. 

By definition, It is simply the value of an investor’s stake in a company.

It's the leftover value after taking away all the liabilities from the assets. This residual value shows up when you subtract your debts from what you own.

Equity, in the context of finance, refers to ownership value in an entity after subtracting liabilities from assets. It represents the ownership stake's worth, entitling holders to assets and profits alongside risks.

Considering stocks and shares. When people own shares in a company, they have equity in that company. They essentially own a piece of this business. 

This ownership gives you certain rights to a part of the company and its profits. You might also hear words like "stock" or "ownership stake", which refer to the same idea.

Key Takeaways

  • Equity in finance signifies ownership and participation in various assets, particularly linked to businesses.
  • It embodies residual value after deducting liabilities, indicating the worth of ownership.
  • It is the value left for owners after settling liabilities in a company.
  • Shared among shareholders, it reflects collective ownership in the company.
  • Publicly listed companies link equity with shares; owning shares equals having a piece of equity.
  • This term’s importance lies in ownership and value representation.
  • It diverges from debt as it entails ownership rather than repayment.

Understanding Equity

Let’s consider a company as an example. Perhaps this company is a manufacturing business that owns buildings, machines, money, etc. 

Equity is the value that's left for the owners once all the company's liabilities are taken care of. This leftover value is shared among the owners, which we call shareholders. In a way, this value shows how much the owners collectively own in the company.

Check out the difference between debt and equity in the video below

A publicly traded company may have many shareholders, while a private, family-owned company may have one or a few shareholders holding equity ownership in the company.

Considering publicly traded companies listed on the stock exchange, owning a share of such a company is connected to possessing part of the company.

When an individual owns company shares, they essentially possess a portion of that same company, akin to being a co-owner. 

These shares represent a stake in the company, and as a result of this ownership, there exists the possibility of receiving a share of the company's profits in the form of dividends (provided the company chooses to distribute dividends).

This notion bears significance in the financial realm as it underscores your stake within a company. It diverges from borrowing money and repaying with interest, following a distinct path.


Remember, there are risks to consider as well. If the company's performance falters, there's a chance you could experience financial losses as well.

This concept is very important. It's about owning things, sharing in profits, and being part of businesses. Whether you hear "stock," "ownership stake," or just "equity," it's all about how much you own and how valuable it is.

How Equity Works

Shareholder equity (SE) is also known as owners' equity or stockholders' equity. 

This measure shows the leftover value in a company's assets after subtracting its liabilities. It represents the collective ownership claim of the shareholders on a company's assets. It also plays a crucial role in understanding a company's financial health and value.

Here's how SE works:


To calculate SE, you deduct a company's total liabilities from its total assets. Mathematically, this can be represented as:

Shareholder’s Equity = Total Assets - Total Liabilities

Assets And Liabilities

Assets cover everything a company owns or controls that have a potential economic value, including:

  • Cash
  • Property
  • Equipment
  • Inventory

Liabilities, on the other hand, cover all the company's obligations or debts, such as:

Ownership Stake

SE reflects the combined ownership portion held by shareholders in the company. Acquiring company shares, whether by an individual or an organization, translates to obtaining a slice of that specific company. The quantity of shares owned directly corresponds to the magnitude of their ownership stake.

Contributions and Earnings

SE is influenced by two main factors:

Contributions refer to the initial investment made by shareholders when purchasing shares. Retained earnings are the cumulative profits that the company has earned over time. If the company wants, it may give these earnings to shareholders in the form of dividends.

Dividends and Losses

SE is impacted by dividends paid and losses incurred by the company. When a company distributes dividends to its shareholders, it reduces its retained earnings.

This also reduces its SE. Similarly, if the company incurs losses, its retained earnings decrease, leading to a decrease in equity.

Financial Health Indicator

SE plays a vital role in measuring a company's financial robustness. A higher value signifies the company holds more assets than liabilities.

This indicates the company's reduced dependency on debt for operational funding, subsequently contributing to greater stability and improved creditworthiness.

Balance Sheet

SE is an important part of a company's balance sheet. The balance sheet provides a snapshot of the company's financial situation at a specific time by showing its assets, debts, and ownership value.


Shareholder equity is the residual value that remains for shareholders if a company were to liquidate its assets and settle its obligations.

It measures ownership interest, financial strength, and value creation within a company. Understanding this term is essential for investors, analysts, and stakeholders to assess a company's financial well-being and potential.

What Are The Components of Shareholders’ Equity?

SE is a crucial part of a company's financial structure. It represents the residual interest in the company's assets after deducting liabilities. It comprises several components that provide insights into equity sources and the company's financial health. 

The main components of Stakeholders' Equity are discussed below.

Common Stock

Common stock, also known as ordinary shares, represents the basic ownership interest in the company. When investors buy common stock, they acquire ownership rights. 

These include voting rights in certain decisions and the potential to receive dividends. The value of common stock is recorded as part of SE on the balance sheet.

Preferred Stock

Preferred stock is a class of shares with more privileges than common stock. Some of these include fixed dividend rates or preference in case of liquidation. 

These shareholders prioritize receiving dividends and claims on assets if the company faces financial difficulties. Like common stock, the value of preferred stock contributes to SE.

Additional Paid-In Capital (APIC)

APIC, also known as paid-in capital in excess of par, reflects the amount shareholders have paid for their shares above the nominal or par value. This component of SE accounts for the premium investors are willing to pay over the stock's stated value.

Retained Earnings

Retained earnings represent the accumulated profits the company has earned and kept over time rather than paying them out as dividends. 

This component indicates the portion of profits the company has reinvested into its operations or used to reduce debt. It's a reflection of the company's historical financial performance.

Treasury Stock

Treasury stock refers to shares of the company's stock that the company itself has repurchased. This can occur for various reasons, such as stock buybacks. 

The value of treasury stock is subtracted from SE because it represents the reduction in ownership held by external shareholders.

Go check out this article titled: What Do We Know About Stock Repurchases. It looks at the growth of stock buybacks over the years because of the flexibility they offer companies over dividends.

Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income (AOCI)

AOCI includes various unrealized gains and losses that are not part of the company's net income. This includes shifts in the value of specific investments, currency changes, and pension adjustments. 

AOCI adds to SE and gives a better picture of the company's financial standing.

Non-Controlling Interest (Minority Interest)

If a company owns part of another company (subsidiary), the ownership share not owned by the parent company is called non-controlling interest. This shows external investors' ownership in the subsidiary and adds to the total equity.

These components collectively make up the SE section of the balance sheet.

By looking at SE, investors and analysts can understand how the company is financed, how well it's doing financially, and how profits are used for growth and the distribution of dividends.

Example Of Shareholders’ Equity

To understand this concept more, let's consider a fictional company named "Tech Innovators Inc." to provide an example of SE:

Let us take an example of a Tech company named Tech Innovators Inc.

At the end of its fiscal year, Tech Innovators Inc. prepares its balance sheet to showcase its financial position. Here's a simplified representation of Tech Innovators' SE components:

  1. Common Stock: $10,000,000: This signifies the complete nominal value of the company's issued common stock. Par value is a nominal value assigned to each share.
  2. Additional Paid-In Capital (APIC): $5,000,000: Investors have paid $5,000,000 above the par value for their common stock shares. This amount reflects the premium investors are willing to pay for ownership.
  3. Retained Earnings: $25,000,000: Throughout its history, Tech Innovators has accumulated profits amounting to $25,000,000, which have been retained to support the company's expansion and ongoing activities.
  4. Treasury Stock: ($2,000,000): Tech Innovators bought back its stock from the market, spending $2,000,000. This action leads to a deduction from equity because it results in a reduction of the company's outstanding shares.
  5. Accumulated Other Comprehensive Income (AOCI): $1,500,000: Tech Innovators possesses investments that have experienced value fluctuations, resulting in a total AOCI of $1,500,000.
  6. Non-controlling Interest: $3,000,000: Tech Innovators operates a subsidiary called "Innovative Solutions Ltd." Within this subsidiary, external investors possess a 30% ownership share, which translates to a non-controlling interest amounting to $3,000,000.

Adding up these components gives us the total SE for Tech Innovators Inc.:

Total Shareholders' Equity = Common Stock + APIC + Retained Earnings - Treasury Stock + AOCI + Non-controlling Interest

Total Shareholders' Equity = $10,000,000 + $5,000,000 + $25,000,000 - $2,000,000 + $1,500,000 + $3,000,000 = $42,500,000

In this example, Tech Innovators Inc.'s shareholder equity totals $42,500,000. 

This number represents the combined ownership stake of investors and the company's retained profits, with adjustments made for actions such as stock repurchases, other comprehensive income, and the ownership share held by external investors in subsidiaries.

SE offers a glimpse into the company's financial well-being and its capital arrangement. It shows the portion of assets owned by shareholders after factoring in debts and obligations.

Other Forms of Equity

In finance, "equity" is a versatile term that can refer to different concepts and contexts beyond SE. Here are some other types of equity commonly encountered in finance:

Private Equity

This involves investing in privately held companies or businesses that are not publicly traded on stock exchanges. These firms pool funds from investors to acquire, invest in, or provide capital to companies, aiming to generate returns over time.

To learn more about private equity, consider signing up for our course: Private Equity Deals Process.

Home Equity

This refers to the ownership value that a homeowner has built up in their property over time. It's the difference between the market value of the home and the outstanding mortgage or other debts against it. 

Homeowners can tap into their home equity through methods like home equity loans or lines of credit.

Brand Equity

This represents the intangible value of a brand name and how it influences consumer perception and purchasing decisions. It's a measure of brand recognition, loyalty, and reputation. 

Companies with strong brand equity can command premium prices and enjoy customer loyalty.

These additional types of equity in finance showcase the diverse applications and implications of the term in various investment, valuation, and risk management contexts.


Equity is a fundamental concept in finance that embodies ownership, value, and participation. It represents the portion of assets owned by shareholders in a company after deducting liabilities.

This ownership stake entitles shareholders to profits, voting rights, and the potential for dividends. Equity is not only crucial for investors and stakeholders but also serves as a key indicator of a company's financial health and stability.

From publicly traded companies to privately held businesses, equity is at the core of ownership arrangements.

The various components of shareholder equity, including common stock, retained earnings, and additional paid-in capital, provide insights into a company's capital structure and financial well-being. 

Moreover, equity extends beyond businesses to encompass concepts like home equity and brand equity, highlighting its diverse applications in different domains.

Understanding equity is vital for investors to assess potential returns and risks, for analysts to evaluate a company's performance and value, and for stakeholders to gauge a company's financial strength.

As you navigate the world of finance, remember that equity represents more than just a financial term – it encapsulates the essence of ownership, value creation, and participation in a dynamic economic landscape.


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Researched and Authored by Bhavik Govan | LinkedIn

Reviewed and edited by Alexander Bellucci | LinkedIn

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