After having several conversations which clearly highlight the fact that the business of share trading and its intricacies still create a dark cloud to many, and an unnecessary element of sophistication at that, it is only fair to (in true debunqed.com fashion) take a step back, delve in and break it down by discussing not just the way to trade – but the whole point of it. It can seem like something only smart people engage in. This is, however, not the case.
The first thing to understand is that shares (referred to in the US as stocks) entitle the holder to have part ownership in a company. So, if you own a share in, Amazon, Deutsche Bank, Coca-Cola, Manchester United or a Cryptocurrency company like Ripple – you OWN a part of the company. You are basically co-owning with other stakeholders of the company with the hopes that the people who run it will increase the monetary value of your shareholding by making the company a success.
Now your share/ownership will determine what level of control (decision-making powers) you have when it comes to the company’s operations. Naturally, owning just 10 or even 1000 shares of Amazon (which cost around a hefty $1400 each today), still does not entitle the owner to have a say in how it is run. The majority shareholder – which would probably be the company owner (chairman/founder) or its board of directors, depending on how the company is structured, will still have the overall say.
To gain a majority shareholding and therefore full control of a company, the minimum number of shares one would need would be 51% of the total issued…good luck obtaining that many!
But let’s take a further step back and unravel why shares are issued in the first place. A company has a value and within that context will always keep tags on the capitalistic market and carefully monitors its value to brace for a potential takeover or a consideration to sell.
So, to get listed on a stock exchange a company will decide how much of its equity to publically issue as shares and might even use it to raise more capital to help grow the business.
This form of equity will be backed against its total assets (and its debts) on its balance sheet. So hypothetically, a company with 100 Euros worth of assets and liabilities has 100 Euros worth of (owners) equity – which basically enables one to determine its worth at a given point in time.
The easiest way to remember this is through this basic accountant’s formula:
Total Owners Equity (OE) = Assets (A) + liabilities (L).
The shares are accounted for in the OE and are issued in denominations based on various factors to provide an indication of the relative strength (or weakness), or potential growth of the company. The (snapshot) total value of the company is thus determined by its share price plus number issued and referred to as its market capitalization. There are several other measures and tools to evaluate the general health of a company.
Rising shares, though always good will not always necessarily mean the company is great value for money as share prices can also be under- or overvalued. Shares for large companies are naturally offered in millions and via an initial public offering (IPO) from as little as one cent or more (depending on its valuation upon listing on the market) and rise to what was quoted for Amazon earlier – which along with the price of certain commodities are one of the highest per share currently available in the open market.
The open market of local bourse is where shares can be bought and sold at specific times depending on side of the world it is located – just like in a traditional marketplace.
Obtaining shares may come with an additional cost (brokerage fees, commission, interest payments in cases of leverage buying etc.) depending on the terms and conditions of the market but more specifically, on the company or broker offering access to the shares.
A good company share will also offer its holders in return an annual dividend – which is basically a share of the company’s profits over and above the share price. So, it is a good idea to include dividend-yielding shares in your trading portfolio if you can afford them.
Once you purchase your stake in the company, you will naturally, even if you don’t have a controlling say in how the company is operated, take a keen interest in the company’s activities as everything it does within its operations or outside ops for that matter will have an impact on its valuation, and therefore, the price of the share you own.
Naturally, investors follow the age-long rule of common sense and buy when the price is low. If you missed the IPO and dip in, the price is always a good time to even top-up for the long and eventual rise.
“Unless a company goes belly-up, a share-stock price that is going down is actually going up – in the long run.”
But the price as we know does not always go up and one must be prepared to weather such storms by not continuously focusing on the shares once you have done your due-diligence and purchased for the long haul. Playing blissful ignorance is the best advice you will get as one can become emotionally attached to the performance of the shares and have it affect your mood.
There are also a lot of trading tools to help prevent a total meltdown if the company folds-up due to external factors such as fraudulent scandals or government intervention – so keeping tags now and then is still required. The recent events and scandal faced by Facebook saw it lose a significant amount (billions of dollars within weeks) in it the value of its share price.
There are also ways to “have ones’ bread buttered both ways” and this is where the concept of short-selling comes in. So, while we all would bet on a company’s stock to go up – there are groups of investors who bet the other way with the hopes that the price will rather drop.
This seemingly dubious form of trading is perfectly legit and comes, naturally, with a higher level of risk – that is if the price increases in favour of all ‘normal’ long-term investors – the short starts to lose money and will even have to fork out more for the amount borrowed to make the short-sell in the first place – not for the inexperienced and ill-informed!
So, you “buy” or rather borrow (with leverage) the future value of the share/stock price usually at its apparent peak (or bubble bursting price level) and hope that it will drop for you to profit from the bet by as much as it continues to drop. Earlier in the year, one such investor dubbed “50 Cent” bagged 200-million-dollars in a major shorting maneuver.
Shorting a stock is a complex, risky but highly lucrative method of balancing out a portfolio. A seasoned trader will, therefore, have several positions including some “buy” and “sell” positions on their shares for long and short terms with the various mechanisms set in place to execute their trades based on those positions.
One wouldn’t just short a stock if one didn’t know something about what was to come or what factors were to lead to a sharp and large drop in the share price. But getting this right is often an exercise that straddles a fine line between being well-informed and intuitive and blatant insider trading.
So, in summary, shareholding happens naturally when you acquire a stake in a business through ownership of its intellectual capital, founding rights, or status as a funder or initial investor to help start the business.
So why do companies issue out shares to the public again you might still ask… think of share listing as a way for a company to hold itself publicly accountable and thus is the ultimate branding weaponry in its arsenal and quest to exponentially increase its profits.