The term “shares outstanding” refers to the stock of a company that is currently held by all shareholders, which includes restricted shares owned by company insiders and share blocks owned by institutional investors.
The outstanding shares of a company are shown on its balance sheet under the Capital Stock heading.
The number of shares that are outstanding is used to calculate key metrics, such as earnings per share (EPS), cash flow per share (CFPS) and the company’s market capitalization. A company’s outstanding shares can also be referred to as its shares outstanding.
All authorized shares sold to or held by the corporation’s shareholders, excluding the treasury stock that is held by the corporation itself, are known as outstanding shares.
Therefore, the number of shares that are outstanding represents the total amount of stock that is available on the open market, which includes the shares that are held by institutional investors and the restricted shares that are held by company officers and insiders.
The number of outstanding shares will not remain static, and can fluctuate significantly over time. The outstanding shares of a company will fluctuate for numerous reasons. The number increases when the company issues more shares.
Companies will typically issue shares to raise additional capital through equity financing, or through the exercise of employee stock options and other financial instruments.
The number of outstanding shares decreases when the company buys its shares back under share repurchase programs.
Locating the Number of Outstanding Shares
In addition to the listing of outstanding shares as capital stock on a company’s balance sheet, companies that are publicly traded are obliged to report the number of outstanding and issued shares, and package this information in the investor relations areas on their websites, or on the websites of the relevant stock exchanges.
In the US, outstanding share numbers are accessible from Securities and Exchange Commission filings.