What are Shares?

Shares in finance mean owning a piece of a company. You get dividends (profits), voting rights, and potential growth, but also face risks and market changes
What are Shares?
3 mins
11-Jul-2024

A share signifies a unit of equity ownership in a company. Shareholders receive a portion of the company's profits as dividends and bear any losses the company incurs. Essentially, owning shares means holding a percentage of the company in proportion to the shares purchased, which can be easily managed via a share market app.

What are shares?

Shares are essentially units of ownership in a company. When individuals or institutional investors buy shares, they acquire a portion of the company and become shareholders. The total number of shares a company issues is known as its "capital stock" or "equity." Shareholders have the right to vote on certain company matters, such as the election of the board of directors and major corporate decisions. Additionally, they may receive dividends—payments from the company's profits—and enjoy the potential for capital appreciation as the company grows.

Features of shares

Shares in the Indian stock market offer:

  1. Ownership stake: Shareholders own a portion of the company's assets and earnings.
  2. Dividends: Shareholders receive a share of the company's profits as dividends.
  3. Voting rights: Shareholders can vote on important company decisions.
  4. Capital gains: Shareholders benefit from the appreciation of share value over time.
  5. Transferability: Shares are easily bought and sold on the stock exchange.
  6. Risk and returns: Shares carry risks but also offer potential for higher returns compared to conservative investments.

Additional read: Equity Share Capital

Example of shares

For example, say ABC Ltd. issued stock and you purchased 100 shares of it. If each share represents 0.1% of ownership, you own 10% of the company. The company issued stock, and you bought shares of it.

Another way to think of it is that when you purchase shares of a stock, you don't buy the stock itself. Stock is a more general term used to refer to the financial instruments a company issues, while shares are the specific units you actually buy.

Types of shares available

There are different kinds of shares you can buy in the stock market.

1. Common shares

Ownership and voting rights: Common shares represent ownership in a company and grant shareholders voting rights in important corporate decisions. They also entitle shareholders to potential dividends.

2. Preferred shares

Fixed dividend, no voting rights: Preferred shares offer a fixed dividend rate, usually paid before common shareholders receive dividends. However, they typically do not provide voting rights, making them attractive for income-focused investors.

3. Treasury shares

Repurchased from open market: Treasury shares are bought back by the company from the open market. They can be reissued to raise capital or retired, impacting the total outstanding shares.

4. Voting and non-voting shares

Voting rights: Voting shares allow shareholders to participate in corporate decisions through voting. Non-voting shares, while lacking voting rights, may offer other benefits, such as priority in dividend distributions.

5. Class A and class B shares

Differing rights: Different classes may have varying voting rights or dividend preferences. This structure allows companies to tailor ownership classes to meet strategic goals without relinquishing control.

6. Growth and value shares

Investment strategies: Growth shares come from companies expected to grow rapidly, attracting investors seeking capital appreciation. Value shares are associated with companies believed to be undervalued, appealing to those looking for potential long-term gains.

Performance metrics of share prices

The performance metrics of share prices are influenced by various factors:

1. Company performance

Financial health: Earnings reports, revenue growth, and profit margins directly impact share prices. Positive performance metrics can lead to increased demand for a company's shares.

2. Industry trends

Sector-specific developments: Trends in a particular industry can influence the performance of related stocks. Investors should stay informed about industry news to anticipate shifts in stock prices.

3. Investor sentiment

Market perception: The overall sentiment in the market, influenced by news, analyst reports, and investor confidence, can sway share prices. Bullish sentiment leads to buying activity, while bearish sentiment can result in selling pressure.

4. Macroeconomic factors

Economic indicators: Broader economic factors, such as GDP growth, interest rates, and inflation, impact investor confidence and overall market performance. A robust economy tends to positively affect share prices.

5. Company-specific events

Influence on share prices: Events like mergers, acquisitions, product launches, or legal issues can significantly impact a company's share prices. Investors should be aware of scheduled and unexpected events that might affect their investments.

Additional read: Types of Shares

How to buy and sell shares?

Let’s explore how to buy and sell shares in the Indian stock market

Buying

  1. Choose a broker: Selecting a suitable brokerage platform is a critical first step in buying shares. Investors should consider factors such as trading fees, research tools, and the platform's user-friendliness. Different brokers may also offer varying levels of customer support and educational resources.
  2. Research stocks: Thorough research is essential before buying shares. Investors should analyse company fundamentals, financial reports, and industry trends. Understanding a company's competitive position, growth prospects, and potential risks helps investors make informed decisions.
  3. Place an order: Once research is complete, investors can place an order to buy shares. They can choose from different order types, including market orders (buying at the current market price), limit orders (setting a specific price to buy), and stop orders (triggering a purchase when the stock reaches a predetermined price).
  4. Pay: After placing an order, investors need to transfer funds to their brokerage account. Most brokers offer various payment methods, including bank transfers and credit/debit card payments.
  5. Monitor: Successful investing requires ongoing monitoring. Investors should keep track of their investments, staying informed about company news, industry developments, and changes in market conditions. Regular monitoring helps investors make timely adjustments to their portfolios.

Selling

  1. Decide to sell: Investors may decide to sell shares for various reasons, such as reaching investment goals, taking profits, or responding to changing market conditions. Deciding when to sell requires a careful assessment of the overall investment strategy and market conditions.
  2. Place an order: When ready to sell, investors can place a sell order, specifying the selling price and order type. Like buying orders, sell orders can be market orders, limit orders, or stop orders.
  3. Receive payment: Once the sell order is executed, investors receive the proceeds from the sale. The funds are typically deposited into the investor's brokerage account.
  4. Evaluate your investment: After selling shares, investors should evaluate the performance of the investment. Reflecting on the reasons for selling, analysing the overall outcome, and reassessing investment goals contribute to continuous learning and improvement in investment strategies.

Why does a company issue shares?

Companies issue shares primarily to raise funds needed for their operations, growth, and expansion. This capital can be used for various purposes, such as financing new projects, research and development, or improving infrastructure. Additionally, issuing shares allows a company to:

1. Raise capital for various operations

Securing necessary funds for day-to-day operations and strategic initiatives.

2. Obtain a stock market listing

Gaining a listing on the stock market can enhance the company’s credibility and attract more investors.

3. Enhance visibility

Increasing the company’s profile and public awareness, which can positively impact its market perception.

4. Extend market presence

Expanding the company's reach and influence within its industry or sector.

Benefits of owning shares

Here are certain important benefits you need to know:

1. Potential for capital appreciation

Owning shares provides investors with the potential for capital appreciation. As the company grows and becomes more profitable, the value of its shares may increase over time. This capital appreciation is a key driver of long-term investment returns.

2. Dividend income:

Many companies distribute a portion of their profits to shareholders in the form of dividends. Owning dividend-paying stocks can provide investors with a steady income stream, making shares an attractive option for income-oriented investors, especially in times of market volatility.

3. Ownership stake:

Shareholders have a tangible ownership stake in the companies that they invest in. This ownership not only grants them certain rights, such as voting on important matters, but also aligns their interests with the success of the company. Shareholders are, in essence, partners in the business.

4. Diversification

Owning shares allows investors to diversify their investment portfolios. By holding shares across different sectors and industries, investors can spread risk and reduce the impact of poor performance in any single investment. Diversification is a key strategy for managing risk and achieving a balanced portfolio.

5. Liquidity

Shares are highly liquid assets. They can be easily bought or sold on the stock market, providing investors with the flexibility to adjust their portfolios based on changing market conditions or investment goals. Liquidity is a crucial aspect for investors who value the ability to access their funds quickly.

4. Corporate actions

Shareholders may benefit from corporate actions initiated by the companies they invest in. These actions can include stock splits, mergers, acquisitions, or spin-offs. While not entirely within the control of individual investors, these events can impact the value of shares and provide opportunities for additional gains or adjustments to the investment portfolio.

5. Social responsibility

Owning shares allows investors to support companies that align with their ethical and social values. Many investors consider environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors when selecting companies to invest in. By investing in socially responsible companies, shareholders contribute to promoting ethical business practices and sustainability.

Risk of owning shares

The risks of owning shares include:

1. Market risks

Share prices are subject to market fluctuations, and investors face the risk of market volatility. External factors such as economic conditions, geopolitical events, and overall market sentiment can contribute to price fluctuations. Investors should be prepared for the inherent uncertainties of the market and carefully consider their risk tolerance.

2. Company-specific risks

Individual companies may face specific risks that can impact their share prices. Poor management decisions, financial difficulties, legal issues, or changes in the competitive landscape are examples of factors that can negatively affect a company's performance. Investors should conduct thorough research and due diligence to assess and mitigate company-specific risks.

3. Liquidity risks

Liquidity risk arises when there is difficulty buying or selling shares in the market at desired prices. Stocks with low trading volumes or limited market interest may experience liquidity challenges. Investors should be mindful of liquidity risks, especially when dealing with less-traded stocks, as it can affect the ease of executing trades and impact the market value of shares.

Additional read: Difference between shares and stocks

Conclusion

Shares are the backbone of the financial markets, representing not just financial assets, but also a stake in the growth and success of businesses. Understanding the different types of shares, how they function, and the associated risks and benefits is crucial for anyone venturing into the world of investing. By staying informed, investors can make informed decisions, navigate market fluctuations, and potentially reap the rewards of their ownership in companies. Whether seeking capital appreciation, dividend income, or a diversified portfolio, shares offer a myriad of opportunities for investors willing to embrace the dynamic nature of the stock market.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a share in simple words?

Publicly traded companies offer units of ownership called shares, allowing them to raise capital from investors. These investments provide funding for essential initiatives such as research and development, expansion projects, and other endeavors that propel business growth.

What is called a share?

A share, also known as equity, is a single unit of ownership in a company. When a company issues shares, it is selling pieces of itself to raise capital. Each share grants the owner certain rights, such as receiving dividends and voting on important company matters.

What is a share example?

For example, if ABC Ltd. issues 1,000 shares and you buy 100 of them, you own 10% of the company. This means you have a 10% claim on the company's profits and assets. If ABC Ltd. earns a profit and declares dividends, you'll receive 10% of the total dividends distributed.

What are the 4 types of shares?

The four types of shares are:

  1. Ordinary shares: Provide voting rights and dividends that vary based on company performance.
  2. Preference shares: Offer fixed dividends and have priority over ordinary shares in asset distribution upon liquidation.
  3. Non-voting shares: Do not provide voting rights but may offer dividends.
  4. Redeemable shares: Can be bought back by the company at a future date.

What is 100 shares of stock called?

In the financial markets, a round lot signifies a standard trading unit. For stocks, this typically refers to 100 shares or any quantity divisible by 100. In the context of bonds, a round lot usually represents a face value of $100,000. Round lots are considered the norm and are contrasted with odd lots, which are smaller holdings that may present challenges when buying or selling.

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