What is equity? Meaning, definition, and examples

Equity is an essential part of any business. It represents the shareholders’ share of the company’s assets and helps ensure the company can operate healthily. Equity also allows shareholders to participate in profits and losses while the company is performing well and provides them with voting rights if they choose to do so. In this article, we will aim to understand the equity shares’ definition by giving some examples and answering the question, “what is the meaning of equity in economics?”.

What is equity share?

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Equity is a financial security that gives the holder an ownership interest in a company. The meaning of equity in the business is also sometimes used to refer to a share of the ownership of a company, which entitles the holder to receive dividends and voting rights. Equity holders typically can vote on corporate matters. When the company is successful, equity holders usually receive a dividend or return on their investment.

Equity investments are typically riskier than other types of investments, but they can also offer the potential for greater returns if the company is successful.

Note! The meaning equity in the share market refers to a company’s ownership stake in its shares. Simply put, it is the total amount a shareholder is entitled to receive if all the business assets are liquidated and debts are paid off.

To keep the firm running, owners need substantial working capital. As a result, companies frequently raise the necessary money, also known as equity share capital, using their equity shares.

What are types of equity?

There are three types of equity shares, they are:

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  • Ordinary Shares. These are those that an organization issues to raise funds to cover its long-term expenses. Investors in these shares receive part of the company’s ownership, and the ordinary shareholder also has the right to vote.
  • Preference Shares. They are a guarantee of the payment of dividends to investors before holders of ordinary shares. On the other hand, their holders do not have voting rights, unlike holders of ordinary shares. Instead, preferred stockholders receive a capital refund if the firm dissolves or liquidates its business.
  • Bonus Shares. ​​This type of share is issued by the business from its retained earnings. However, it does not increase the firm’s market capitalization as other shares do.
  • Rights Shares. Companies issue them only to premium investors. Rights are issued at a reduced price. As a result, the stake of such holders is increasing. The goal is to raise money to meet the firm’s financial needs.
  • Sweat Equity. They are received by managers and employees. They are issued at a discount as motivation for excellent work on know-how, granting intellectual property rights, or adding value to the business.
  • Employee Stock Options (ESOPs). The company gives ESOPs to its employees as an incentive and for retention. For example, these shares can be received by directors and other workers who have exercised the ESOP grant option.

How does shareholder equity work?

Shareholder equity is the total value of all outstanding common stock minus any preferred stock and other minority interests. It represents the residual interest in a company after all liabilities have been paid. Shareholder equity is substantial because it determines a company’s ability to pay off debts and finance future growth.

When a company issues new shares of common stock, the proceeds are divided among the shareholders according to their respective shareholdings. Each shareholder receives an equal fraction of the total number of issued shares, regardless of whether they purchased them individually or in bulk. The value of each share is determined by multiplying its nominal value (the price paid for it) by the total number outstanding. Any dividends declared on these newly issued shares are distributed among shareholders in proportion to their holdings as long as those dividends are not greater than the shareholder’s original investment.

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However, over time the value of a company’s shares can decline if no new earnings are generated or if desired financial goals (such as share repurchases) are not met. In these cases, shareholders may receive less in rewards for their equity investment, meaning that certain efforts must be made to achieve financial goals. Conversely, when a company outperforms expectations by generating higher profits and increasing its stock price, its shareholders will reap larger rewards (assuming they did not sell their shares).

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Formula and how to calculate shareholders’ equity

Shareholders’ Equity is stated per share and represents an owner’s share in a company. It serves as a financial cushion against potential liabilities and allows for increased liquidity by providing shareholders with additional funds to purchase the common stock if desired.

The calculation uses the following formula:

Shareholders’ equity = Total Assets − Total Liabilities

To calculate shareholders’ Equity for a company, one must first determine its total liabilities. They can be found through the company’s balance sheet or using debt financing information from sources such as Moody’s Investor Service, Standard and Poor’s Ratings Services, and Fitch Ratings.

Once total liabilities are known, subtotal shareholder’s equity can be calculated by subtracting total liabilities from the sum of shares outstanding plus issued but unclaimed stock options. Issued but unclaimed stock options will generally be those that have not been exercised within 180 days after their issuance date. If any outstanding warrants or convertible securities have not been exercised, then the calculation of shareholder’s Equity will also include those items.

What are the components of shareholder equity?

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Shareholder equity is the total dollar value of a company’s outstanding shares. Shareholders own a vital stake in a company, and their money is invested to generate future income.

The three primary components of shareholder equity are common stock, retained earnings, and capital gains or losses. Common stock represents a company’s ownership, and its voting rights are equal to those of all other shareholders. In addition, a firm can issue new shares, increasing the total number of outstanding shares and providing additional capital to support growth or acquisitions.

Retained earnings represent profits after expenses are paid out (such as salaries, rent, fuel bills, etc.). The company keeps this money to reinvest in future business endeavors or distribute it among shareholders through dividends or share buybacks.

Capital gains or losses occur when a company’s stock price rises or falls. These gains and losses add up over time, and they can have a significant impact on shareholder equity. For example, if the stock price goes up, shares of common stock are worth more than when the investment was made. This value increase is referred to as a capital gain. Conversely, if the stock price declines, shares of ordinary shares are worth less than when the investment was made. It is called a capital loss.

What owner’s equity is and its formula

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The equity account that displays the company’s ownership share is known as owner’s capital or owner’s equity. Meaning of owners equity, in other words, demonstrates the percentage of corporate assets owned by owners rather than creditors. The owner’s capital account is often restricted to sole ownership.

To determine a company’s equity using the accounting equation, apply the following formula:

Owners’ equity = Total assets – Total liabilities

Example of shareholder equity

We took XYZ Co., the ice cream manufacturing company, as an example. Let’s estimate its shareholder equity as of December 31, 2018, based on the annual report for the year 2018.

Total Assets are equal to Cash and Cash equivalents plus Accounts receivables plus Net property, plant, and equipment plus Inventory = $500,000 + $4,000,000 + $16,000,000 + $3,500,000 = $24,000,000

Total liabilities = Total short-term debt + Total long term debt + Accounts payable + Other current liabilities = $8,000,000 + $4,500,000 + $8,000,000 + 5,000,000 = $25,500,000

Therefore, the shareholder’s equity can be calculated as $24,000,000 – $25,500,000 = – $1,500,000.

Thus, as of December 31, 2018, the shareholder’s Equity of XYZ Co. was $1,500,000 negative. This low equity value denotes a very precarious financial position for the firm, which might be on the verge of bankruptcy or winding up.

Other forms of equity

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In addition to being used for company evaluation, the concept of Equity has other uses. More generally, Equity is the amount of ownership remaining in any asset after all associated debts have been paid off.

The following are a few typical equity variations:

  • On a company’s balance sheet, it shows the total capital contributions made by the owners or shareholders plus the retained earnings (or losses). It is also referred to as shareholders’ equity or stockholders’ equity.
  • The value of the securities in a margin account less any margin loans that the account holder takes from the brokerage.
  • The difference between a property’s current fair market value and the principal mortgage balance in real estate. It is the amount the property owner would receive after the sale and payment of any debts, additionally known as “real property value”.
  • The money left over after a company declares bankruptcy and must liquidate its assets. The terms “ownership equity”, “risk capital”, and “liable capital” have also been used to describe it.

Private equity

Private Equity is investing that consists of buying and managing companies or assets for the benefit of their owners. Private equity firms offer a range of investments, from small businesses to large corporations. They typically use investment funds with high returns and limited risk to achieve these goals.

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Private Equity is a relatively new form of investing. It was developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s to take advantage of booming stock markets by allowing high-net-worth individuals and families to invest in private companies that they did not have access to through traditional capital sources. Over time, private Equity has evolved into an increasingly sophisticated investment vehicle with a broader range of options and opportunities.

Today, private equity firms play an essential role in virtually all industries worldwide. They typically focus their investments on companies with solid fundamentals and prospects for growth. It allows private equity firms to create value for their investors while helping firms achieve their objectives.

Note! Private Equity is a complex and volatile type of investment. As such, it is not appropriate for everyone. Before investing, you should speak with a qualified financial advisor to ensure that you are making an informed decision.

Home equity

Home equity is the difference between the market value of a home and any outstanding mortgages or loans on that property. It can also be considered the amount homeowners have left over after paying off all their loans and expenses associated with owning a home. You can determine the market value of a home by checking the price per square foot and the average sales prices in a given area and also find the outstanding mortgage or loan amount on public databases.

There are several essential things to keep in mind when it comes to home equity:

  • It is a valuable resource that you can use for many purposes, such as paying off debts, covering expenses unrelated to the home, and investing in assets. 
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  • It cannot be used as collateral for a loan. You will likely have to take out a personal loan if you need money from your home equity account.
  • You should only combine home equity with other savings vehicles if you have enough money to cover the potential loss and any associated fees.
  • Finally, it is important to periodically review your household expenses and ensure that they align with your overall financial goals. If you’re using more home equity than anticipated, it may be time to reconsider some of your spending patterns.

Brand equity

Brand equity is a measure of the attractiveness and profitability of a business. Its calculation is based on the brand’s perceived strengths, such as its reputation for quality, features that distinguish it from competitors, and customer loyalty.

Several factors contribute to a brand’s Equity. These include customer perception, product quality and features, company reputation, advertising and marketing efforts, the design of the brand identity, and coherence between all elements of the branding strategy. As a result, brand equity is a critical component of the strategic management of businesses. It can be used to shape marketing and sales efforts, allocate resources and determine pricing decisions. In addition, it can provide essential insights into the current state of a brand’s popularity and how it may evolve in the future.

Brand equity can be increased through a positive image campaign, developing unique selling propositions (USPs), and strengthening customer relationships. Conversely, decreased brand equity may occur when the brand is associated with negative perceptions, such as being known for its high prices or low quality.

Equity vs. Return on equity

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As we’ve seen, equity can imply various things, but it typically refers to ownership of a resource or a business, like stockholders’ ownership of a company. And return on equity gauges how much money a company makes from its shareholders’ equity and how well management generates profits from the business’s assets. This measure of financial performance is calculated by dividing net income by shareholder equity. It may be seen as the return on net assets since shareholder equity equals a company’s assets less its debt.

What is equity in finance?

Equity in finance is the value of a company’s common stock. It is crucial because it represents a stake in the company’s future profits and allows investors to sell shares at any time.

Equity is an integral part of a company’s value. Its owners are typically entitled to receive dividends and payments from the firm’s profits. It also allows investors to sell shares anytime and profit from price fluctuations.

What is equity in the business?

Equity in a business is the amount that can be returned to shareholders if all of the firm’s assets are liquidated, and debts paid off. It is one of the indicators of the company’s financial health (the more equity a business has, the more valuable it is). This indicator is included in the balance sheet and is often used by investors in choosing the companies whose shares they want to own.

What other terms are used to define equity?

Some other terms used to describe equity are shares, stock, and ownership. Share is the basic unit of equity. It entitles its holder to a proportional share in profits and losses, voting rights, and other privileges determined by the company’s articles of incorporation or charter.

What is equity capital?

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Equity capital refers to funds raised through issuing new shares (primary) or converting preferred stocks into common ones (more customary). 

How do investors use equity?

Equity is a tool that investors use to increase their return on investment. It belongs to stakeholders in a company, such as shareholders, who are entitled to receive returns on the assets they invested in the business. Equity holders also have the right to vote on important matters, such as corporate decisions and new investments.

Equity is also a vital measure of a company’s financial strength. It includes profits generated by the business operations and any capital gains or losses associated with asset appreciation or depreciation over time.

A company with solid equity values can withstand short-term economic fluctuations, providing stability to its stock price and future earnings potential. Conversely, weak equity values may signal that the firm is struggling and could lead to increased borrowing costs or bankruptcy proceedings. Therefore, for investors to benefit from an increase in the value of a company’s equity, they need to have confidence that the business will be able to generate profits in the long term.

How is equity calculated?

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When a company’s shares are bought and sold in the open market, their price is determined by supply and demand. When more people want to buy a share of the company, its price will increase. Conversely, when fewer people want to buy a share of the firm, its price will decrease.

Equity refers to what remains after liabilities (such as debt) are paid off. The net worth of a company is its total assets minus total liabilities. The book value of the assets is what the company would be worth if all the assets were sold in an orderly transaction at market prices. The difference between these two values is called Equity and represents how much money shareholders have left after paying off their liabilities.


A business needs stable equity because it ensures that the stakeholders — those who invest in the company or own shares of it — are rewarded for their money. If investors do not believe they can recoup their capital, they may refuse to invest and ultimately hurt the company’s bottom line.

Equity shares also help to motivate a company’s employees. They will work harder to protect their stake when there is potential for their share of the profits to decrease. This dedication drives innovation and ensures that the business remains competitive.

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