Shares outstanding are shares that have been authorized, issued, and purchased by investors and are held by them. They have voting rights and represent ownership in the corporation by the person that holds the shares. They should be distinguished from treasury shares, which are shares held by the corporation itself, having no exercisable rights.
Shares outstanding can be calculated as either basic or fully diluted. The fully diluted shares outstanding count includes diluting securities, such as options, warrants or convertibles.
A company may buy back shares or issue shares in any fiscal period. If a company buys back shares, we should observe that the total number of shares decline. If the company issues new shares, the number of shares outstanding increases.
Usually the presence of treasury shares and a history of buyback are good indicators that company has competitive advantage. But studies have shown that companies usually buy back at wrong time. Buying back shares below its intrinsic value increases value for remaining shareholders. Buying back overvalued shares destroys value for existing shareholders.
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