Shareholder’s Equity – Definition

Cite this article as:"Shareholder’s Equity – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated September 10, 2019, last accessed October 19, 2020,


Shareholder Equity Definition

Shareholder equity (SE) refers to the net assets available to the shareholders of a company after all the liabilities have been paid. Equity describes the total assets of a firm when its liabilities are deducted shareholders equity is otherwise called stockholders’ equity, it indicates the amount of money that shareholders will receive after a company has paid its debts.

Shareholders of a company share the ownership of the company, this is why they are referred to as owners of a corporation. Shareholders’ equity refers to the assets of a company that can be claimed by its shareholders after its debts have been paid.

The formula for calculating shareholders’ equity is the balance sheet equation, the formula is;

Shareholders’ equity = total assets − total liabilities

Calculating Shareholder Equity

When using the accounting equation such as the formula above for the calculation of shareholders’ equity, there are some guidelines that serve as the basis for the calculation. First, the total assets of a company recorded on its balance sheet must be identified. Second, the liabilities or debts that a company owes must also be separated.  Once both have been identified, the equity or assets of the company must be totaled and its sum deducted from the total liabilities of the company for the shareholders’ equity to be known.

The retained earnings of a company is an important factor to be considered when calculating shareholders’ equity. This is a form of savings that a company makes form its net earnings, these profits are put aside and not paid to shareholders

What Does Shareholder Equity Tell You?

A company can either have surplus of assets after paying its debts or have a shortage of assets in paying its liabilities. If the assets available to a company are sufficient to pay its debts, the company has a positive shareholders’ equity. Shareholders’ equity would be negative if the available assets cannot pay the debts of a company, and this can have a negative impact on the company.

Shareholders’ equity does not single handedly depict a company’s financial health, there are other factors to be considered. However, shareholders’ equity can give a snapshot to the financial health of a company, in many cases, investors avoid companies with negative shareholders’ equity.

Investors can also what the assets and liabilities of a company look like through its shareholders’ equity. The total assets of a company which comprises of current and noncurrent assets as well as the liabilities of a company which include current liabilities and long-term liabilities are determined. The liabilities or the debts of a company are deducted from the assets and the remaining value make up the shareholders’ equity.

Generally, investors look out for companies with positive shareholders’ equity. Market analysts also measure the retained earnings of a company alongside its shareholders’ equity in determining the financial stability of a company. Shareholders’ equity also determines the level of return a company generates after it has settled its debts.

Here are some points you should note about shareholders’ equity;

  • Shareholders’ equity refers to the residual claims shareholders of a company can make after all liabilities have been settled.
  • Shareholders’ equity is realized when the total liabilities of a company are deducted from its assets.
  • Shareholders’ equity plays an important role when evaluating the financial health of a company but it cannot be used as a definitive indication of the company’s health.
  • The amount invested by investors and the returns a company make can be measured through shareholders’ equity.

Here is an example of shareholders’ equity;

If Company XYZ has a total assets worth $15.5 million in 2018 and the liabilities accrued for that same fiscal year is $9.4 million. The shareholders’ equity will be calculated by deducting the company’s liabilities from its assets for that fiscal year.

Hence, Shareholders’ equity = $15.5 – $9.4 = $6.1 million.

This illustration simply depicts how shareholders’ equity is calculated.

There is a distinction between equity and shareholders’ equity. Equity refers to the value of a company that can be attributed to the owners of the company. Shareholders’ equity refers to the residual claims of corporation owners of a company after its debts have been paid. That is, the amount left for the shareholders of a company after all liabilities have been deducted from a company’s assets.

References for “Shareholders’ Equity (SE)” â€ș Investing â€ș Financial Analysis â€ș Resources â€ș Knowledge â€ș Accounting â€ș Accounting â€ș Shareholders Equity

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