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Common Shares Outstanding errors, affecting Market Capitalization

Hi Thomas,

I've found some errors in the 'Common Shares Outstanding' indicator values, in a few different Tickers. These are sometimes associated with correct, but sometimes also incorrect, 'Avg. Basic Shares Outstanding' and 'Avg. Diluted Shares Outstanding' values. This then seems to affect the calculation of Market Capitalization, which bounces around, consistent with changes in the Common Shares Outstanding values.

Here are 2 example Tickers:

--

Ticker: 'A'
-- 2017-02-28: Common Shares Outstanding 322,300.905 (consistent with EDGAR)
-- 2017-01-31: Common Shares Outstanding 322,000 (seems consistent but dunno where this value sourced from)
-- 2016-10-31: Common Shares Outstanding 614,000 (weird value) **this is actually Issued Shares (Outstanding + Treasury shares), not Outstanding shares only. That's why number so high.
-- 2016-08-31: Common Shares Outstanding 324,384.755 (consistent with EDGAR)
-- 2016-07-31: Common Shares Outstanding 613,000 (weird value)

You can see that Common Shares Outstanding bounces back and forth from the 300,000s to 600,00s, then back. In EDGAR filings, they are all consistently in the 300,000s.

Interestingly, Avg. Basic Shares Outstanding and Avg. Diluted Shares Outstanding for 2016-10-31 is closer to the correct value, at 326,000 and 329,000, respectively. But sometimes, the inverse is true, where the Common Shares Outstanding is the correct value, and the Avg. Basic Shares Outstanding and Av. Diluted Shares Outstanding values are erroneous:

-- 2009-07-31: Common Shares Outstanding 345,112.058
-- 2009-07-31: Avg. Basic Shares Outstanding 175,500.17375
-- 2009-07-31: Avg. Diluted Shares Outstanding 176,000.174

--

Meanwhile, another example, Ticker: 'AAPL'

-- 2013-10-18: Common Shares Outstanding 899,738 (consistent with EDGAR)
-- 2013-07-12: Common Shares Outstanding 908,497 (consistent with EDGAR)

but there are some weird values in between these dates:

-- 2013-09-30: Avg. Diluted Shares Outstanding 17,723,430 (weird)
-- 2013-09-30: Avg. Basic Shares Outstanding 17,600,412 (weird)
-- 2013-09-28: Common Shares Outstanding 6,294,494 (weird)

--

Here are my download settings:

Stock prices + Fundamentals
Publishing date / Period end-date (same results in both)
Narrow format
Quarters

--

Maybe helpful: I've figured out some of the source of discrepancy, but not all. When I use the SimFin Data Finder tool, and then trace the source of some of these bad values, it appears that the PDF crawler is finding some of the abnormally high Common Shares Outstanding numbers from the text of the Balance Sheet. But the Balance Sheet text refers to "Issued Shares", which is often but not always the same as "Outstanding Shares" (as you know Issued Shares = Outstanding Shares + Treasury Shares). So some of the high numbers for Common Shares Outstanding appear to be taken from this "Issued Shares" text of the Balance Sheet, and these records should probably be corrected.

Separately, where do the numbers for Avg. Basic Shares Outstanding and Avg. Diluted Share Outstanding come from? There are some weird numbers in the bulk download; I'm not sure if they're in the SimFin Data Finder too (haven't checked).

Charles

Comments

  • Hi Charles,

    yes there might be some errors still in the shares outstanding figures, I haven't built in yet a mechanism that monitors the quality of these figures/potential errors (for the fundamentals there is something in place). There is one error source which comes from XBRL, which is that some companies don't specify the right unit sometimes in their shares outstanding values, so the most common error I saw so far were values that were off by a factor of 1000 (either too big or too small). I know this could be fixed quite easily but it just hasn't been my top priority yet (instead these values haven been corrected manually when spotted).

    We don't take the shares outstanding figures from the balance sheet though, it's really a separate figure that is being reported by the companies in XBRL but it's quite messy as I said already (especially when there is more than one share class involved).

    Additionally, the figures in the data finder and bulk download might deviate from Edgar filings because of share splits, when a share split occurs (for Apple this is what happened in June 2014 for example) this is not reflected in the price because we take the adjusted closing prices (which account for stock splits, so the historical prices are "adjusted" to the price post-split), so as this is not reflected in the price, all historical shares outstanding figures have to be adjusted by the factor of the share split. Thats why for companies that had a share split in the past the shares outstanding figures deviate from Edgar as they are adjusted for the split.
  • Hi Thomas,

    You're right on all counts - it looks like the weird problems I'm encountering are mostly due to the stock splits. I think I figured it out for AAPL, but it looks like there's currently an error in the historical adjustments, after stock splits:

    You're right that the historical Share Price values are "adjusted" to the price post-split. If you look in the SimFin data at the Share Price values over time, even through the date of a stock split, they increase and change without any "jumps" or sudden decreases, as you would expect with a stock split. But that means that, in order for market capitalization to be consistent, then the historical Common Shares Outstanding values need to be "adjusted" as well.

    Consistent with this, it looks like companies adjust both historical Share Price and Common Shares Outstanding values in their SEC filings, when their filings reference either of these values from pre-stock split dates.

    Problem right now in SimFin data is that the historical Share Price values are adjusted, but the Common Shares Outstanding values are not. This leads to strange Market Cap results when these 2 numbers are multiplied.

    Interestingly, for AAPL, at least, this actually solve the question of why the Common Shares Outstanding values "bounce" back and forth from low to high values and back sometimes, instead of just increasing once at the time of the stock split. It's because the older filings, pre-stock split, have the pre-split lower Common Shares Outstanding. After the stock split, the newer filings have the post-split, higher number for Common Shares Outstanding. SimFin data correctly reflects this sudden jump in Common Shares Outstanding at the time of stock split (June 2014 for Apple, 7-for-1 split as you mentioned). But the kicker is: some of the newer post-split SEC filings will include & reference data from a year ago (for YoY comparisons, for example), and it looks like they must report these older reference numbers in the XBRL. But the Common Shares Outstanding value from a year ago has been adjusted for the split, because this filing was written and filed after the stock split. The XBRL data transmitted thus includes this newer, adjusted value for the Common Shares Outstanding, even though it is reporting on the Common Shares Outstanding from a time period prior to the stock split. SimFin then inserts it into the table, dated appropriately from a year ago. But this value has been adjusted; it is then inserted into a time period where the surrounding values were originally reported un-adjusted, pre-stock split, leading to several sequential values that bounce back and forth between adjusted and un-adjusted Common Shares Outstanding.

    It's an interesting problem. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction -- it makes more sense to me now.

    On a forward-looking note, is there any way you think this can be corrected, or updated? Ultimately, I think that the Common Shares Outstanding values need to be adjusted by the stock split, same as the Share Price is, in the same way that the company SEC filings are done. Market Cap isn't consistent otherwise.

    (I also did see the off-by-1000-factor problem due to unit inconsistency too, in a few values. I also have not yet analyzed Ticker 'A', but just looked at 'AAPL' so far since you gave me the stock split hint!)

    Charles


  • Hi Thomas,

    I've uncovered a second, different source of error for the odd Common Shares Outstanding values, and actually it is seen in the first ticker above (Agilent, Ticker='A'):

    It seems that some companies (like Agilent) are reporting the Common Shares Issued as the Common Shares Outstanding, even though they may be different values if the company retains any Treasury Stock. When I look up Common Shares Outstanding for Agilent, in the SimFin Data Finder webpage:

    Ticker = 'A'
    Common Shares Outstanding as of: 2011-10-31:
    Value is listed as: 591,000,000 (this is a weird value and the correct value is closer to 347 million shares).

    There haven't been any relevant stock splits around this time period or soon afterward.

    From SinFin Data Finder webpage, if I click on the value to determine the source, it ultimately leads me to the following link:

    https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1090872/000109087212000006/a-07312012x10q.htm

    In the Balance Sheet, it states:
    "Common Stock, 591 million shares at October 31, 2011, issued"
    and the next line states:
    "Treasury Stock, 244 million shares at October 31, 2011"

    Following formula for Outstanding Stock = Issued Stock - Treasury Stock, this would make for Outstanding Stock = 347 million shares, which is basically the correct value.

    However, SimFin data currently shows 591 million shares Outstanding, when it actually should be 591 million shares Issued, and only 347 million shares Outstanding.

    Since SimFin is getting their data from XBRL and not from reading the Balance Sheets, it must be that some companies, like Agilent above, are incorrectly reporting the Issued Shares number under the Outstanding Shares value.

    I'm not sure how this can be fixed if the companies themselves are reporting the wrong values ....

    :(

    Charles

  • Hi Thomas,

    Do you think there's any possibility of working out the inconsistent Common Shares Outstanding issue, relatively soon?

    The thing is that it's such a fundamental value - it affects calculation of P/E ratio, P/B ratio, P/S ratio, etc etc.

    I realize you're very busy making tons of additions to the site! But just wanted to impress upon you the importance of accuracy of this particular value.

    Charles


  • edited March 18
    Hi Charles,

    yes wanted to get back to you anyway. Interesting point, I never thought about extracting the shares outstanding data from the balance sheet items (currently it's separate indicators in the XBRL data).

    Shares outstanding is on the top of my list but I just don't believe the SEC database is a good enough source to get that kind of data, taking the data from the balance sheet is interesting but it only solves part of the problem, since we don't just care about shares outstanding but also avg. basic/diluted shares outstanding over the reported period (which are hidden somewhere else).

    I'm working on getting all the shares outstanding info from the PDF reports too so that there are less errors, this is pretty hard but I think it's doable. The PDF extraction is currently taking almost all my time so sorry for not responding earlier.
  • it's cool - thanks thomas for your response! I realize you have a ton on your plate, so I appreciate your responsiveness, and as has been mentioned already by me and multiple people before, this site is incredible.

    some observations I've made / ideas I've thought of, that might be helpful to you with the PDF extraction of this info (and maybe not; you've probably already thought of them):

    - I've noticed that for Common Shares Outstanding, the easiest place for me to look is the cover page of the Quarterly/Annual reports. Near the signatures, there's always a line that says, "As of December 31, 2014, there were 6,984,245 shares outstanding" or something like this. You're right that this does not include info on Basic / Diluted shares.

    - Balance Sheet extraction was very helpful for me, for understanding specifically how many shares were Outstanding vs. Issued, since the XBRL data looks like it is sometimes reported incorrectly, but the Balance Sheet was always helpful in this regard. I have a feeling Balance Sheet may be able to be used to find Basic / Diluted shares also but have not looked into this specifically.

    Do you have any idea of when this issue might be addressed though? Obviously I know there's no firm date, but do you think this would be on the order of weeks, or months? Although Basic & Diluted Shares would be great too, I think that in terms of time, for initial usefulness, accuracy of just the Common Shares Outstanding metric alone would already greatly help to make the Market Cap measure more useful.




  • I am trying my best to improve this as quick as possible :) currently I am focusing mostly on tables inside the PDFs, so would be interesting to look whether the shares outstanding info can be found inside tables or if it's usually somewhere in the text (not in tables).
  • edited March 19
    it's really hard to give you a realistic estimate though how long this is going to take, the PDF extraction is tremendously difficult but all the info inside the PDFs is of high quality and almost everything you want to know is in there, so I think it's worth it. I don't want to work on improving the XBRL extraction because I think it's a "sinking ship" in a way, and there is no way in trying to fix some small holes in it.
    So it could take a few months before this gets considerably better, but I'm sure I can figure it out as the current progress with the PDF extraction is actually quite remarkable and I'm surprised myself how well it's working already. I'll write a new blog post about this soon.
  • ok awesome Thomas! i see the logic in your approach and that makes complete sense - why bother trying to improve XBRL if the data in it is low quality. agree with the sinking ship analogy, haha.

    awesome, i am very much looking forward to the new PDF extraction data!! maybe it will simultaneous fix the other issue with the unavailable data on companies with non-calendar fiscal years. =D who knows!


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