July 27, 2023
Equity is the value that would be returned to a firm's shareholders if all its assets were sold off and all its obligations were settled. Another way to conceive equity is as the amount of ownership in a company or asset after all associated obligations have been paid off. On a company's balance sheet, equity is the ownership position that the shareholders have in the business. Several important financial measures, like ROE, employ equity to measure a company's total assets less its total liabilities. Another method to define equity is "home equity," which is the worth of a homeowner's property after deducting any debt.

What is equity?

Equity, commonly referred to as shareholders' equity or owners' equity for privately owned enterprises, is the amount of money that would remain in the hands of a firm's shareholders if all of its property was sold off and its liabilities were fully settled. It is the worth of company sales less any liabilities owing by the firm that were not transferred with the sale in the case of an acquisition. Additionally, a company's book value may be represented through shareholder equity. Equity may occasionally be given in exchange for cash. Additionally, it symbolizes the proportionate ownership of a company's shares. A company's equity may be seen on its balance sheet, and it is one of the most often used pieces of information by analysts to evaluate a company's financial standing.

Perceiving the concept of equity

The "assets-minus-liabilities" shareholder equity equation gives a clear picture of a business's finances, readily comprehended by investors and analysts. It compares specific numbers indicating everything the company owns and owes. Equity is a company's capital raised and utilized to fund operations, invest in projects, and buy assets. A company can often raise cash by selling equity (by selling shares) or debt (by issuing loans, bonds, or other financial obligations). Investors typically seek equity investments because they offer a better chance to participate in a company's development and earnings.

The value of an investor's interest in a firm, expressed by the percentage of its shares, makes equity significant. Shareholders can benefit from dividends and capital gains via their firm shares. Another benefit of owning shares is voting on business decisions and board of director elections. These benefits of equity ownership encourage shareholders to maintain an interest in the business.

Equity held by shareholders may be negative or positive. If the answer is yes, the company's assets exceed its liabilities. If this balance is negative, the corporation is considered insolvent on the balance sheet since its obligations outweigh its assets. Investors typically consider businesses with negative shareholder equity hazardous or unreliable investments. Investors can effectively assess an organization's health using shareholder equity and other tools and measures. Shareholder equity alone is not a reliable indication of a company's financial health.

The formula and calculation of equity

The accounting equation yields the formula and computation that may be used to calculate a company's equity:

Shareholders' equity = Total assetsTotal liabilities

The balance sheet contains this information, and the following four actions must be taken there:

     i.     Find the corporation's total assets on the balance sheet for the period.

     ii.    Find total liabilities separately listed on the balance sheet.

     iii.   Deduct total liabilities from total assets to get the shareholder equity.

     iv.   Note that total assets will equal the sum of liabilities and total equity.

A company's share capital and retained earnings minus the value of its treasury shares can also be used to calculate shareholder equity. But this approach is less usual. The usage of total assets and liabilities is more indicative of a company's financial health, even if both techniques provide the same number.

Components of shareholder equity

The portion of net earnings not allocated to shareholders as dividends are called retained earnings and is a component of shareholder equity. Since retained earnings are the sum of all profits set aside or kept for future use, think of them as savings. As long as the business keeps reinvesting a portion of its earnings, retained earnings increase. The total retained earnings might eventually surpass the equity capital investors have invested. In most cases, retained earnings make up most of the investors' equity in long-standing corporations.

The stock that the corporation has repurchased from current owners is known as Treasury stock (which is different from U.S. Treasury banknotes). Companies may repurchase shares if management cannot use all of the equity capital at its disposal in ways that might produce the highest results. In contrast to the accounts for investor capital and retained earnings, treasury stock records the dollar worth of shares that corporations buy back. These shares are known as treasury shares. When businesses need to raise money, they might reissue treasury shares to stockholders. Many believe that a corporation's equity held by stockholders represents its net assets or, to put it another way, the amount shareholders would receive if the firm sold all of its assets and paid off all its liabilities.

Other equity forms

In addition to being used for company evaluation, equity has other uses. More broadly, we may define equity as the amount of ownership remaining in any asset after all associated obligations have been paid off.

The following are a few typical equity variations:

         i.          An asset such as a stock or other security that symbolizes ownership interest in a business.           ii.         The sum of the capital contributions made by the owners or shareholders plus the retained profits (or losses) is shown on a company's balance sheet. It is also referred to as shareholders' equity or stockholders' equity.

         iii.         The worth of securities in a margin account is less than any margin loans taken out by the account holder from the brokerage.

         iv.         The discrepancy between a property's current fair market value and the outstanding mortgage balance in real estate. It is the sum the owner would get following the sale of a property and the settlement of any liens. Additionally known as "real property value."

Private Equity

The market value of equity in a publicly traded investment may easily be determined by examining the firm's share price and market capitalization. Since there is no market mechanism to evaluate value for private enterprises, additional valuation forms must be used.

As a broad term, private equity assesses privately held businesses. When liabilities are subtracted from assets to arrive at an estimate of book value, stated equity on the financial sheet is what is left over. In this case, the accounting equation still holds. Then, privately held businesses can raise capital by issuing direct share sales through private placements. Institutions like pension funds, university endowments, insurance firms, or recognized individuals may be among these private equity investors.

Private equity sales are frequently made to funds and investors focusing on direct investments in private enterprises or leveraged buyouts (LBOs) of publicly traded corporations. A corporation borrows money from a private equity firm in an LBO deal to pay for purchasing a division of another business. The loan is often secured by future cash flows or the target firm's assets. A commercial bank often offers a private loan known as mezzanine debt. In subordinated loans, warrants, ordinary or preferred stock, debt, and equity are frequently used in mezzanine deals.

Private equity is utilized at various stages of a company's life cycle. A developing business with no sales or revenues typically cannot afford to borrow money. Therefore it must obtain funding from friends, family, or individual "angel investors." When a firm has finished developing a product or service and is prepared to launch it on the market, venture capitalists come into the picture. Some of the biggest, most profitable internet companies, like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Meta (together known as GAFAM), got their start with venture capital financing.

Types of private equity financing

The majority of private equity financing is provided by venture capitalists (VCs) in exchange for an early minority share. To ensure active participation in leading the firm, a venture capitalist will occasionally accept a position on the board of directors for its companies. Venture capitalists aim to make money quickly and sell their assets after five to seven years. An LBO is one of the most frequent forms of private equity financing, which can occur as a business grows.

Private Investment in a Public Company (PIPE) is the last variety of private equity. It is the acquisition of shares in a corporation by a private investment firm, mutual fund, or other eligible investors at a price below the share's current market value (CMV) to raise money.

In contrast to shareholder equity, private equity is not available to the average person. Only "accredited" investors—those with a net worth of at least $1 million—can participate in private equity or venture capital partnerships. Depending on how big the project is, form 4 can be needed. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) for private equity provide an option for investors that don't fit this criteria.

Home equity

The value of homeownership is roughly equivalent to home equity. By deducting the mortgage balance, a house's equity refers to the owner's outright portion. Payments made on a mortgage, such as a down payment and property value rise, result in equity on a piece of real estate or a house.

The owner can leverage the equity in their property to get a home equity loan, often their biggest collateral source. An equity takeout removes funds from a property or a loan secured by it.

Brand equity

It's crucial to remember that when calculating an asset's equity, especially for bigger organizations, this asset may encompass both tangible assets, like real estate, and intangible assets, like the company's reputation and brand identification. A company's brand can acquire intrinsic worth via years of marketing and clientele growth. Some refer to this worth as "brand equity," which assesses how valuable a brand is compared to store- or generic-brand equivalents of the same item.

Additionally, a concept known as "negative brand equity" describes how consumers will pay more for generic or store-brand goods than a product with a specific brand name. Negative brand equity is uncommon but can happen as a result of negative press from an occurrence like a product recall or a natural disaster.

Return on equity vs. equity

A metric of financial performance known as return on equity (ROE) is obtained by dividing net income by shareholder equity. ROE may be seen as the return on net assets as shareholder equity equals a company's assets less its debt. ROE gauges how well management generates profits from a company's assets.

As we've seen, equity may indicate various things, but it often refers to ownership of a resource or a business, like investors' ownership of a firm. A financial statistic called return on equity (ROE) gauges how much money a firm makes from its shareholders' equity.

How do investors use equity?

The idea of equity is crucial for investors. An investor may, for instance, use shareholders' equity as a benchmark when examining a firm to determine whether a given acquisition price is reasonable. An investor could be hesitant to pay more than that valuation if, for example, the firm has typically traded at a price-to-book value of 1.5 unless they believe the company's prospects have significantly improved. On the other hand, if the price paid is sufficiently low to the company's equity, an investor can feel safe purchasing shares in a relatively poor company.


A company's equity is its net value. It denotes an organization's ownership by an investor. It is the number of assets the stockholders obtain after paying off obligations and debt after liquidation. It is measured as the difference between the assets and liabilities of a business on its balance sheet. It indicates the net asset worth of a firm to investors, bankers, and the general public. A company in good financial standing continually has beneficial equity, meaning it earns more than it borrows.