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Understanding Earnings Per Share (EPS ratio)

One of the challenges of estimating stocks is establishing an comparison. In other words setting up a comparison that is meaningful so that the results help you make an investment decision.

Similarly, comparing the earnings of one company to another really doesn’t make any sense, if you think about it. Using the raw numbers ignores the fact that the two companies undoubtedly have a different number of outstanding shares.

For example, companies A and B both earn Rs 100, but company A has 10 shares outstanding, while company B has 50 shares outstanding. Which company’s stock do you want to own?

It makes more sense to look at earnings per share (EPS) for use as a comparison tool. You calculate earnings per share by taking the net earnings and divide by the outstanding shares.

EPS = Net Earnings / Outstanding Shares

Using our example above, Company A had earnings of Rs 100 and 10 shares outstanding, which equals an EPS of 10 (100 / 10 = 10). Company B had earnings of Rs 100 and 50 shares outstanding, which equals an EPS of 2 (100 / 50 = 2).

So, you should go buy Company A with an EPS of 10, right?

Maybe, but not just on the basis of its EPS.

The EPS is helpful in comparing one company to another, assuming they are in the same industry, but it doesn’t tell you whether it’s a good stock to buy or what the market thinks of it.

For that information, we need to look at some ratios which is discusses in other section.

Before we move on, you should note that there are three types of EPS numbers:

• Trailing EPS - last year’s numbers. These are the only actual EPS. 
• Current EPS - this year’s numbers, which are still projections
• Forward EPS - future numbers, which are obviously projections
Understanding Earnings Per Share (EPS ratio)