If a company raises capital by selling more shares, the result is a dilution of the holdings of existing shareholders. On the surface, this action should result in a share price drop. However, since the price of a stock in the market is based on investor expectations, issuing new shares may be viewed as a positive or a negative for the share price -- or even both -- depending on an investor's time frame.
When new shares are issued, this commonly results in share dilution. Simply put, diluting a share can quickly cause a drop in per-share value. This is just one possible outcome, however.
Understanding Capital Value
From a capital or market value point of view, selling shares should not significantly change the per share value. Shares going out from the new issue result in cash equal to the value of those shares coming into the company. Consider a hypothetical company with a $100,000 market value and 1,000 shares. Each share is worth $100. If the company sells 100 more shares, it will bring in $10,000. The value of the company should increase by the $10,000 to $110,000 and the number of shares outstanding increase to 1,100, maintaining the $100 per share value.
Per Share Valuation
Selling shares will dilute the current earnings per share, a metric investors often use to gauge the value of a stock. If the example $100,000 company had net income of $5,000, the earnings per share would be $5 for a price-to-earnings ratio of 20. If 100 new shares are sold, the earnings per share drops to $4.55. If investors believe the stock should be priced at a P/E of 20, the share price should drop to $91 from the before stock issuance $100.
Putting Money to Work
What investors want to know when a company issues shares to raise capital is what will the company do with that money to increase shareholder value. Typically, when money is raised by issuing shares, the company will provide an explanation of its plans for the additional capital. If the plan is to buy assets or even another company and the acquisitions will significantly increase profitability, the stock price should go up. If the company is raising capital without a viable plan for the use of the money, the investing public may sell of shares, driving down the stock price.
Assessing Past Results
Companies that have business models of growing by acquisition may use the sale of more shares as a regular way of raising money. Investors will realize a couple of stock issues whether a company does or does not do a good job of putting that money to work when measured on a per-share basis. With an additional stock sale, there is often a short-term share price drop, which can be a buying opportunity for investors who believe in the long-term prospects of a company.
Tim Plaehn has been writing financial, investment and trading articles and blogs since 2007. His work has appeared online at Seeking Alpha, Marketwatch.com and various other websites. Plaehn has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from the U.S. Air Force Academy.