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Earnings Per Share (EPS)

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What Is Earnings Per Share (EPS)?

Earnings per share (EPS) is calculated as a company's profit divided by the outstanding shares of its common stock. The resulting number serves as an indicator of a company's profitability. It is common for a company to report EPS that is adjusted for extraordinary items and potential share dilution.

The higher a company's EPS, the more profitable it is considered to be.

Key Takeaways

• Earnings per share (EPS) is a company's net profit divided by the number of common shares it has outstanding.
• EPS indicates how much money a company makes for each share of its stock and is a widely used metric for estimating corporate value.
• A higher EPS indicates greater value because investors will pay more for a company's shares if they think the company has higher profits relative to its share price.
• EPS can be arrived at in several forms, such as excluding extraordinary items or discontinued operations, or on a diluted basis.
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Formula and Calculation for EPS

Earnings per share value is calculated as net income (also known as profits or earnings) divided by available shares. A more refined calculation adjusts the numerator and denominator for shares that could be created through options, convertible debt, or warrants. The numerator of the equation is also more relevant if it is adjusted for continuing operations.

$\text{Earnings per Share}=\frac{\text{Net Income }-\text{ Preferred Dividends}}{\text{End-of-Period Common Shares Outstanding}}$

To calculate a company's EPS, the balance sheet and income statement are used to find the period-end number of common shares, dividends paid on preferred stock (if any), and the net income or earnings. It is more accurate to use a weighted average number of common shares over the reporting term because the number of shares can change over time.

Any stock dividends or splits that occur must be reflected in the calculation of the weighted average number of shares outstanding. Some data sources simplify the calculation by using the number of shares outstanding at the end of a period.

Example of EPS

Say that the calculation of EPS for three companies at the end of the fiscal year was as follows:

How Is EPS Used?

Earnings per share is one of the most important metrics employed when determining a firm's profitability on an absolute basis. It is also a major component of calculating the price-to-earnings (P/E) valuation ratio, where the E in P/E refers to EPS. By dividing a company's share price by its earnings per share, an investor can see the value of a stock in terms of how much the market is willing to pay for each dollar of earnings.

EPS is one of the many indicators you could use to pick stocks. If you have an interest in stock trading or investing, your next step is to choose a broker that works for your investment style.

Comparing EPS in absolute terms may not have much meaning to investors because ordinary shareholders do not have direct access to the earnings. Instead, investors will compare EPS with the share price of the stock to determine the value of earnings and how investors feel about future growth.

Basic EPS vs. Diluted EPS

The formula in the table above calculates the basic EPS of each of these select companies. Basic EPS does not factor in the dilutive effect of shares that could be issued by the company. When the capital structure of a company includes items such as stock options, warrants, or restricted stock units (RSU), these investments—if exercised—could increase the total number of shares outstanding in the market.

To better illustrate the effects of additional securities on per-share earnings, companies also report the diluted EPS, which assumes that all shares that could be outstanding have been issued.

For example, the total number of shares that could be created and issued from NVIDIA's convertible instruments for the fiscal year that ended in 2017 was 23 million. If this number is added to its total shares outstanding, its diluted weighted average shares outstanding will be 541 million + 23 million = 564 million shares. The company's diluted EPS is, therefore, $1.67 billion /.564 million =$2.94.

Sometimes an adjustment to the numerator is required when calculating a fully diluted EPS. For example, sometimes a lender will provide a loan that allows them to convert the debt into shares under certain conditions. The shares that would be created by the convertible debt should be included in the denominator of the diluted EPS calculation, but if that happened, then the company wouldn’t have paid interest on the debt. In this case, the company or analyst will add the interest paid on convertible debt back into the numerator of the EPS calculation so the result isn’t distorted.

EPS Excluding Extraordinary Items

Earnings per share can be distorted, both intentionally and unintentionally by several factors. Analysts use variations of the basic EPS formula to avoid the most common ways that EPS may be inflated.

Imagine a company that owns two factories that make cellphone screens. The land on which one of the factories sits has become very valuable as new developments have surrounded it over the past few years. The company’s management team decides to sell the factory and build another one on less valuable land. This transaction creates a windfall profit for the firm.

Though this land sale has created real profits for the company and its shareholders, it is considered an “extraordinary item” because there is no reason to believe the company can repeat that transaction in the future. Shareholders might be misled if the windfall is included in the numerator of the EPS equation, so it is excluded.

A similar argument could be made if a company had an unusual loss—maybe the factory burned down—which would have temporarily decreased EPS and should be excluded for the same reason. The calculation for EPS excluding extraordinary items is:

$\text{EPS}=\frac{\text{Net Income }-\text{ Pref.Div. }\left(+or-\right)\text{ Extraordinary Items}}{\text{Weighted Average Common Shares}}$

A company started the year with 500 stores and had an EPS of $5.00. However, assume that this company closed 100 stores over that period and ended the year with 400 stores. An analyst will want to know what the EPS was for just the 400 stores the company plans to continue with into the next period. In this example, that could increase the EPS because the 100 closed stores were perhaps operating at a loss. By evaluating EPS from continuing operations, an analyst is better able to compare prior performance to current performance. The calculation for EPS from continuing operations is: $\text{EPS}=\frac{\text{N.I. }-\text{ Pref.Div. }\left(+or-\right)\text{ Extra.Items }\left(+or-\right)\text{ Discontinued Operations}}{\text{Weighted Average Common Shares}}$ EPS and Capital An important aspect of EPS that is often ignored is the capital that is required to generate the earnings (net income) in the calculation. Two companies could generate the same EPS, but one could do so with fewer net assets; that company would be more efficient at using its capital to generate income and, all other things being equal, would be a "better" company in terms of efficiency. A metric that can be used to identify more efficient companies is the return on equity (ROE). EPS and Dividends Although EPS is widely used as a way to track a company’s performance, shareholders do not have direct access to those profits. A portion of the earnings may be distributed as a dividend, but all or a portion of the EPS can be retained by the company. Shareholders, through their representatives on the board of directors, would have to change the portion of EPS that is distributed through dividends to access more of those profits. Because shareholders can’t access the EPS attributed to their shares, the connection between EPS and a share’s price can be difficult to define. This is particularly true for companies that pay no dividend. For example, it is common for technology companies to disclose in their initial public offering documents that the company does not pay a dividend and has no plans to do so in the future. On the surface, it is difficult to explain why these shares would have any value to shareholders. The actual notional value of EPS also seems to have a relatively indirect relationship with the share price. For example, the EPS for two stocks could be identical, but the share prices may be wildly different. For example, in October 2018, Southwestern Energy Company (SWN) earned$1.06 per share in diluted earnings from continuing operations, with a share price of $5.56. However, Mellanox Technologies (MLNX) had an EPS of$1.02 from continuing operations with a share price of $70.58. On the surface, it seems like SWN is the better deal because an investor is only paying$5.25 per dollar of earnings ($5.56 share price /$1.06 EPS = $5.25). Investors in MLNX are paying$69.20 per dollar of earnings ($70.58 share price /$1.02 EPS = \$69.20). This ratio is also known as the earnings multiple or price/earnings (P/E) ratio.

Although the comparison between MLNX and SWN is extreme, investors will generally find a comparison of EPS and share prices between industry groups to be difficult to compare. Stocks that are expected to grow (e.g., technology, retail, industrial) will have a larger price-to-EPS (P/E) ratio than those that are not expected to grow (e.g., utilities, consumer staples).

EPS and Price-to-Earnings

Making a comparison of the P/E ratio within an industry group can be helpful, though in unexpected ways. Although it seems like a stock that costs more relative to its EPS when compared to peers might be “overvalued,” the opposite tends to be the rule. Regardless of its historical EPS, investors are willing to pay more for a stock if it is expected to grow or outperform its peers. In a bull market, it is normal for the stocks with the highest P/E ratios in a stock index to outperform the average of the other stocks in the index.

What is a good EPS?

What counts as a “good” EPS will depend on factors such as the recent performance of the company, the performance of its competitors, and the expectations of the analysts who follow the stock. Sometimes, a company might report growing EPS, but the stock might decline in price if analysts were expecting an even higher number.

Likewise, a shrinking EPS figure might nonetheless lead to a price increase if analysts were expecting an even worse result. It is important to always judge EPS in relation to the company’s share price, such as by looking at the company’s P/E or earnings yield.

What is the difference between basic EPS and diluted EPS?

Analysts will sometimes distinguish between “basic” and “diluted” EPS. Basic EPS consists of the company’s net income divided by its outstanding shares. It is the figure most commonly reported in the financial media, and it is also the simplest definition of EPS.

Diluted EPS, on the other hand, will always be equal to or lower than basic EPS because it includes a more expansive definition of the company’s shares outstanding. Specifically, it incorporates shares that are not currently outstanding but could become outstanding if stock options and other convertible securities were to be exercised.

What is the difference between EPS and adjusted EPS?

Adjusted EPS is a type of EPS calculation in which the analyst makes adjustments to the numerator. Typically, this consists of adding or removing components of net income that are deemed to be non-recurring. For instance, if the company’s net income was increased based on a one-time sale of a building, the analyst might deduct the proceeds from that sale, thereby reducing net income. In that scenario, adjusted EPS would be lower than basic EPS.

What are some limitations of EPS?

When looking at EPS to make an investment or trading decision, be aware of some possible drawbacks. For instance, a company can game its EPS by buying back stock, reducing the number of shares outstanding, and inflating the EPS number given the same level of earnings. Changes to accounting policy for reporting earnings can also change EPS. EPS also does not take into account the price of the share, so it has little to say about whether a company's stock is over- or undervalued.

How do you calculate EPS using Excel?

After collecting the necessary data, input the net income, preferred dividends, and number of common shares outstanding into three adjacent cells, say B3 through B5. In cell B6, input the formula "=B3-B4" to subtract preferred dividends from net income. In cell B7, input the formula "=B6/B5" to render the EPS ratio.

Article Sources

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1. NVIDIA. "2017 NVIDIA Corporation Annual Report," Pages 25, 27. Accessed Oct. 13, 2021.