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Earnings Per Share (EPS)

Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding Earnings Per Share (EPS)

Last Updated March 3, 2024

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Earnings Per Share (EPS)

In This Article
  • EPS stands for “Earnings Per Share”, and measures the net profits of a company attributable to common shareholders, expressed on a per-share basis.
  • The earning per share (EPS) is the ratio between a company’s net income and its weighted average number of common shares outstanding.
  • Generally, a higher EPS ratio is perceived more positively by the market, as it implies the company is more profitable per share (and vice versa).
  • EPS reflects the profitability of a company per accrual accounting standards, but can be artificially increased from stock buybacks and stock splits (or reduced from new stock issuances and reverse stock splits).

How to Calculate Earnings Per Share (EPS)

The earnings per share metric, often abbreviated as “EPS”, determines how much of a company’s accounting profit is attributable to each common share outstanding.

The net earnings of a company in a given period – i.e. net income (the “bottom line”) – can either be reinvested into operations or distributed to common shareholders in the form of dividend issuances.

The retained earnings line item on the balance sheet is thus determined by taking the prior period balance and adding the current period net income, followed by subtracting any common and preferred dividend issuances.

Ultimately, the company’s allocation of its net earnings is a discretionary decision determined by management and the board of directors, with the goal of maximizing shareholder value.

There are two forms of earnings per share (EPS) recorded on the income statement:

  • Basic Earnings Per Share (EPS) → The basic EPS is a company’s net income relative to each common share outstanding.
  • Diluted Earnings Per Share (EPS) → The diluted EPS is a company’s net income relative to each common share outstanding after adjusting for potentially dilutive securities (e.g. options, warrants, and convertibles).

Earnings Per Share Formula (EPS)

The formula for calculating the earnings per share (EPS) is as follows.

Earnings Per Share (EPS) = (Net Income Preferred Dividends) ÷ Weighted Average Common Shares Outstanding

Where:

  • Net Income → The net income, often referred to as the “bottom line”, is the after-tax residual profits generated by a company in a given period, once all operating and non-operating costs are deducted.
  • Preferred Dividends → Preferred stockholders are of higher priority (in terms of liquidation preference) than common shareholders in a company’s capital structure. Since the EPS metric represents the earnings to common (not preferred) shareholders, we must deduct any dividend issuances distributed to preferred stockholders.
  • Weighted Average Common Shares Outstanding → The shares outstanding of a company refer to the number of units of ownership issued by the company to date, after subtracting the number of shares retired via stock repurchases. The weighted average—the average between the beginning and end of period balance—is used to align the timing mismatch between the numerator and denominator.

Basic EPS vs. Diluted EPS: What is the Difference?

The difference between the basic earnings per share and diluted earnings per share is that the latter adjusts for the net impact from potentially dilutive securities.

The roll-forward schedule to calculate (and forecast) a company’s basic shares outstanding is the following:

Ending Basic Shares Outstanding = Beginning Balance + New Stock Issuances Stock Buybacks

From that starting point, the diluted shares are determined by compiling a company’s potentially dilutive securities such as options, warrants, restricted stock units (RSUs), and convertible debt instruments.

The standard methodology for determining a company’s diluted shares outstanding is the treasury stock method (TSM):

  • Step 1 → The treasury stock method (TSM) assumes that if an option tranche is “in-the-money”—i.e. current share price exceeds the strike price—the option (or related security) is executed. The intuition is that given the economic incentive, the option holder will likely exercise the option since it would be profitable to do so.
  • Step 2 → Once exercised, the proceeds received by the issuer are then assumed to be used to repurchase as many shares as plausible at the current market share price to partially offset the dilutive impact.
  • Step 3 → The net dilution, i.e. the new shares created post-adjustment for the repurchases, is added to the original share count.

While only the securities that are “in-the-money” were included in the past, the more conservative approach of including all (or most of) the dilutive securities is now common practice.

Therefore, the potentially dilutive securities are assumed to be exercised, irrespective of whether they are “in-the-money” or “out-of-the-money”.

The distinction between the basic and diluted EPS can be seen in the denominator of their respective formula.

Basic Earnings Per Share (EPS) = (Net Income Preferred Dividends) ÷ Weighted Average of Common Shares Outstanding

Since the denominator is greater in the basic EPS, the diluted EPS is always less than the basic EPS from the higher share count.

Why? The diluted EPS is inclusive of the net dilution from dilutive securities like convertible bonds (and thus, is a more conservative measure of profitability).

Diluted Earnings Per Share (EPS) = (Net Income Preferred Dividends) ÷ Weighted Average of Diluted Common Shares Outstanding

How to Find Earnings Per Share on Income Statement?

The earnings per share (EPS) reported by a company per GAAP accounting standards can be found near the bottom of a company’s income statement, right below net income.

The section will contain the EPS figures on a basic and diluted basis, as well as the share counts used to compute the EPS.

For an illustrative, real-life example, the following screenshot below is of the income statement of Apple (AAPL) from its 10-K filing for fiscal year ending 2022.

Earnings Per Share Example AAPL

Apple Earnings Per Share, Fiscal Year 2022 (Source: AAPL 10-K)

Earnings Per Share Calculator (EPS)

We’ll now move on to a modeling exercise, which you can access by filling out the form below.

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1. Operating Assumptions

Suppose we’re tasked with calculating the earnings per share (EPS) of a company that reported $250 million in net income for fiscal year 2021.

Of the $250 million in net earnings, $25 million was issued to preferred shareholders in the form of a dividend.

  • Net Income = $250 million
  • Preferred Dividend = $25 million

Thus, the “Net Earnings for Common Equity”—which is calculated by deducting the preferred dividend from net income—amounts to $225 million.

  • Net Earnings for Common Equity = $250 million –$25 million = $225 million

The number of common shares outstanding at the beginning of the period was 160 million.

Throughout fiscal year 2021, the company issued no new shares and repurchased 20 million shares, resulting in 140 million common shares outstanding at the end of the period.

  • Ending Common Shares Outstanding = 160 million + 0 million – 20 million = 140 million

2. Basic Earnings Per Share Calculation Example (EPS)

Since we now have the beginning and ending number of common shares outstanding, the next step is to calculate the weighted average shares outstanding.

  • Weighted Average Shares Outstanding = (160 million + 140 million) ÷ 2 = 150 million

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume the date on which the buyback occurred is right in the middle of the fiscal year, i.e. two quarters with 160 million shares and two quarters with 140 million shares outstanding.

We now have the necessary inputs to calculate the basic EPS, so we’ll divide the net earnings for common equity by the weighted average shares outstanding.

  • Basic EPS = $225 million ÷ 150 million = $1.50

Our company’s basic earnings per share (EPS) comes out to be $1.50.

EPS Calculator

3. Diluted Earnings Per Share Calculation Example (EPS)

In the next part of our exercise, we’ll determine our company’s diluted earnings per share (EPS).

The treasury stock method (TSM) requires the market share price, which we’ll assume is $40.00 as of the latest market closing date.

  • Market Share Price = $40.00

The table below outlines the dilutive securities issued by our company.

Options Table Shares Outstanding (#) Strike ($) Net Impact (#)
Tranche 1 10 million $5.00 9 million
Tranche 2 15 million $10.00 11 million
Tranche 3 20 million $20.00 10 million
Net Dilutive Impact 30 million

The net dilution equals the gross new shares in each tranche less the shares repurchased.

Net Dilution = Gross “In-the-Money” Dilutive Securities Shares Repurchased

The number of shares repurchased is calculated by taking the strike price multiplied by the new shares—divided by the market share price.

The net dilution comes out to be 30 million shares, which we’ll add to the weighted average shares outstanding of 150 million.

On a fully diluted basis, our company has a total of 180 million shares outstanding.

  • Net Dilution = 9 million +11 million +10 million = 30 million
  • Fully Diluted Shares Outstanding = 150 million + 30 million = 180 million

In the final step, we arrive at a diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.25 upon dividing our company’s net earnings to common by its share count on a fully diluted basis, reflecting a difference of $0.25 per share relative to the basic EPS.

  • Diluted Earnings Per Share (EPS) = $225 million ÷ 180 million = $1.25

Earnings Per Share Calculator (EPS)

Do Stock Buybacks and Share Issuances Affect EPS?

Stock buybacks and new stock issuance are two methods for publicly-traded companies (post-IPO) to directly impact their number of outstanding shares.

  • Stock Buybacks → In contrast, stock buybacks reduce the number of shares outstanding and increase the proportion of earnings that each common share is entitled to. Otherwise known as share repurchases, stock buybacks have become increasingly prevalent in lieu of dividends issuances due to the resulting positive market signal sent out to investors, i.e. the repurchase can imply that management believes the current share price is undervalued by the market.
  • New Stock Issuances → Once a company decided to go public via an initial public offering (IPO), it retains the option to raise more capital through equity issuances, e.g. seasoned equity offering, or “follow-on” offering. But since more shares are issued in exchange for capital, there are more shares in circulation, resulting in more dilution. Thus, the company’s earnings per share (EPS) declines in value since the ratio’s denominator has increased, which is the drawback to raising capital via new stock issuances.

Therefore, to summarize the net impact on the earnings per share (EPS) line item, new stock issuances cause a company’s EPS to decline, whereas stock buybacks result in an artificially higher EPS.

Learn More → How Share Repurchases Boost Earnings Without Improving Returns (Source: McKinsey)

How Does a Stock Split Impact the EPS Ratio?

Aside from new stock issuances and stock buybacks, public companies can also impact their share count through a stock split.

  • Stock Split → A stock split occurs when a company decides to divide each share into a pre-determined number of shares. For instance, a company’s share count would double in a 2-1 stock split, while its share price trades at half of its former price.
  • Reverse Stock Split → A reverse stock split achieves the opposite effect as a stock split. If the company orders a 1-2 reverse split, the number of shares outstanding would be cut in half, while its share price would double.

The market capitalization, i.e. “equity value”, of a company following a stock split or reverse stock split should be neutral in theory.

But in actuality, stock splits and reverse splits can still affect a company’s share price, which depends on the market’s perception of the decision.

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Cary Norway
September 26, 2023 9:23 pm

I know preferred dividends are subtracted from net income to get to net income to common. Does this work the same way with PIK dividends on a convertible preferred equity? I’m asking this because it would theoretically convert into common later, and then EPS would be hit twice – every… Read more »

Brad Barlow
September 27, 2023 2:41 pm
Reply to  Cary Norway

Hi, Cary,

Yes, the PIK dividend would reduce net income to common. However, if the preferred shares are converted, then the dividend is added back to net income (and the new shares are added to the shares outstanding) for the purposes of calculating diluted EPS.

BB

Cary Norway
September 27, 2023 3:21 pm
Reply to  Brad Barlow

Very helpful! Thank you. Could you please clarify this part: “However, if the preferred shares are converted, then the dividend is added back to net income”

Brad Barlow
September 29, 2023 11:01 am
Reply to  Cary Norway

Hi, Cary, Let’s say net income is 1000, and preferred dividends are 10, so that net income to common is 990; we would use 990 to calculate basic EPS. However, if we assume that preferred shares converted into common, so that our share count is higher for EPS, then we… Read more »

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