A:

The best way to answer this question is to provide a simple illustration of what happens when a company increases the number of shares issued, or shares outstanding, through a secondary offering.

Let's start from the beginning. A company goes public with an initial public offering (IPO) of stock. In our example, XYZ Inc. has a successful IPO and raises $1 million by issuing 100,000 shares. These are purchased by a few dozen investors who are now the owners (shareholders) of the company. In the first full year of operations, XYZ produces a net income of $100,000.

One of the ways the investment community measures a company's profitability is based on earnings per share (EPS), which allows for a more meaningful comparison of corporate figures. So, in its first year of public ownership, XYZ had an EPS of $1 ($100,000 of net income / 100,000 shares outstanding). In other words, each share of XYZ stock held by a shareholder was worth $1 of earnings

Subsequently, things are looking up for XYZ, which prompts management to raise more equity capital through a secondary offering, which is successful. In this instance, the company only issues 50,000 shares, which produces additional equity of $50,000. The company then goes on to have another good year with a net income of $125,000.

That's the good news, at least for the company. However, when viewed from the point of view of the original investors - those who became shareholders through the IPO - their level of ownership has been decreased with the increase in the shareholder base. This consequence is referred to as the dilution of their ownership percentage.

Some simple math will illustrate this event. In the second year, XYZ had 150,000 shares outstanding: 100,000 from the IPO and 50,000 from the secondary offering. These shares have a claim on $125,000 of earnings (net income), or earnings per share of $0.83 ($125,000 of net income / 150,000 shares outstanding), which compares unfavorably to the $1 EPS from the previous year. In other words, the EPS value of the initial shareholders' ownership decreases by 17%!

While an absolute increase in a company's net income is a welcome sight, investors focus on what each share of their investment is producing. An increase in a company's capital base dilutes the company's earnings because they are spread among a greater number of shareholders.

Without a strong case for maintaining and/or boosting EPS, investor sentiment for a stock that is subject to a potential dilutive effect will be negative. Although it is not automatic, the prospect of share dilution will generally hurt a company's stock price.

For related reading, check out Markets Demystified and What is dilutive stock?

RELATED FAQS
  1. Why would I need to know how many outstanding shares the shareholders have?

    There are a few different contexts in which the total number of outstanding shares are considered important. Shares work ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What is finance?

    "Finance" is a broad term that describes two related activities: the study of how money is managed and the actual process ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What is the 'Rule of 72'?

    The 'Rule of 72' is a simplified way to determine how long an investment will take to double, given a fixed annual rate of ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is a stock split? Why do stocks split?

    All publicly-traded companies have a set number of shares that are outstanding on the stock market. A stock split is a decision ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. When did Facebook go public? (FB)

    Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) went public with its initial public offering (IPO) on May 18, 2012. With a peak market capitalization ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Can mutual funds invest in IPOs?

    Mutual funds can invest in initial public offerings (IPOS). However, most mutual funds have bylaws that prevent them from ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Sectors

    3 Cyclical Industries To Exploit in 2016

    Learn about the three industries at the down end of their business cycles, and discover how these industries may improve in years to come.
  2. Investing Basics

    Inside IPO Roadshows

    Understand more about IPO road shows. Learn the reasons why an IPO road show is important for the success of a company's public offering.
  3. Stock Analysis

    If You Had Invested Right After Berkshire Hathaway's IPO (BRK.A)

    Learn how much you would now have if you had invested right after Berkshire Hathaway's IPO, and find out the classes of shares that you could invest in.
  4. Stock Analysis

    Is Now the Right Time to Buy Coty? (COTY)

    Find out whether fragrance and color cosmetics powerhouse Coty deserves a place in your portfolio. Will recent acquisitions help turn the company around?
  5. Investing Basics

    5 Common Mistakes Young Investors Make

    Missteps are common whenever you’re learning something new. But in investing, missteps can have serious financial consequences.
  6. Investing Basics

    5 Questions First Time Investors Should Ask in 2016

    Learn five of the most important questions you need to ask if you are a new investor planning on starting an investment program in 2016.
  7. Stock Analysis

    Moderna Therapeutics: An IPO Candidate in 2016?

    Find out the reasons why 2016 may be the year when highly valued biotech company Moderna Therapeutic files for an initial public offering (IPO).
  8. Stock Analysis

    The Biggest Risks of Investing in Verizon Stock (VZ)

    Read about some of the biggest risks of investing in Verizon stock. While the company has a good dividend and value pricing, there are risks.
  9. Stock Analysis

    Domo Inc: An IPO Candidate in 2016?

    Learn about key information on Utah-based technology startup Domo Inc. and how the Domo dashboard differentiates itself in the world of business intelligence.
  10. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    The 3 Best American Funds for Value Investors in 2016

    Learn about value investing and how interest rate hikes benefit mutual funds, and the top three American Funds mutual funds for value investors.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Private Equity

    Private Equity is equity capital that is not quoted on a public ...
  2. Road Show

    A presentation by an issuer of securities to potential buyers. ...
  3. Markdown

    The difference between the highest current bid price among dealers ...
  4. Catalyst

    A catalyst in equity markets is a revelation or event that propels ...
  5. Investing

    The act of committing money or capital to an endeavor with the ...
  6. Bid Wanted

    An announcement by an investor who holds a security that he or ...
Hot Definitions
  1. Black Swan

    An event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and that would be extremely difficult ...
  2. Inverted Yield Curve

    An interest rate environment in which long-term debt instruments have a lower yield than short-term debt instruments of the ...
  3. Socially Responsible Investment - SRI

    An investment that is considered socially responsible because of the nature of the business the company conducts. Common ...
  4. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
  5. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
Trading Center