What Is an Ordinary Share?

A pair of scales

Welcome to the world of finance, where we dive deep into the intricate details of various investment instruments. Today, we’ll unravel the mysteries of an often-discussed term in the financial realm – ordinary shares. So, let’s dig in and understand the basics of ordinary shares and their significance in the corporate landscape.

Understanding the Basics of Ordinary Shares

When it comes to investing in a company, one of the most common ways to become a shareholder is by owning ordinary shares. Also known as common shares or equity shares, ordinary shares represent the basic ownership units of a company. By owning these shares, you hold a portion of the company’s ownership and become a part-owner of the business.

One of the key features of ordinary shares is that they usually come with voting rights. This means that as a shareholder, you have the opportunity to participate in crucial decisions and have a say in the company’s affairs. Whether it’s electing board members or voting on important matters, your ownership of ordinary shares grants you the power to influence the direction of the company.

Ordinary shares are prevalent in both public companies and privately-held ones. Public companies, which are listed on stock exchanges, offer ordinary shares to the general public, allowing anyone to become a shareholder. On the other hand, privately-held companies may offer ordinary shares to a select group of individuals, such as employees or investors.

Key Features of Ordinary Shares

Now that we have a better understanding of what ordinary shares are, let’s delve into some of their key features:

  • Ownership: One of the primary benefits of owning ordinary shares is that they provide partial ownership in a company. This means that as a shareholder, you have a claim on the company’s assets and profits. Your ownership stake represents your share of the company’s value.
  • Voting Rights: As mentioned earlier, ordinary shares often come with voting rights. This gives you the opportunity to participate in important company matters, such as electing board members or approving major decisions. Your voting power is directly proportional to the number of ordinary shares you own.
  • Dividends: When a company earns profits, it has the option to distribute a portion of those profits to its shareholders in the form of dividends. This means that as an ordinary shareholder, you may receive regular income in the form of dividends, providing you with a return on your investment.
  • Risks and Returns: Investing in ordinary shares involves both risks and potential returns. The value of your shares may fluctuate depending on various factors, such as market conditions, the company’s performance, and industry trends. While there is the potential for significant returns, there is also the possibility of losses.

It’s important to note that the value of ordinary shares can be influenced by a multitude of factors. Economic conditions, industry trends, and company-specific news can all impact the price of ordinary shares. Therefore, it’s crucial for investors to carefully analyze and evaluate the potential risks and returns associated with owning ordinary shares.

Overall, ordinary shares play a vital role in the world of investing and provide individuals with the opportunity to become part-owners of a company. By understanding the basics and key features of ordinary shares, investors can make informed decisions and navigate the complex world of stock ownership.

The Role of Ordinary Shares in a Company

Ordinary shares play a vital role in determining ownership structure within a company. The number of ordinary shares an investor holds translates into their percentage ownership in the company. For instance, if a company has 1,000 ordinary shares, and you own 100 shares, you own 10% of the company.

This ownership comes with certain benefits, such as sharing in the company’s profits and potential capital appreciation. However, it also carries responsibility, as shareholders may be liable for the company’s debts to the extent of their investment.

Moreover, ordinary shares provide investors with the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process of the company. Shareholders holding ordinary shares usually have the power to vote on a range of matters, including the election of directors, mergers and acquisitions, and changes in the company’s bylaws. This gives shareholders a voice in shaping the company’s future and holding management accountable.

Voting Rights and Ordinary Shares

One of the fundamental advantages of ordinary shares is the right to vote. Companies often follow a “one share, one vote” principle, where each ordinary share equates to one vote. This ensures that shareholders have equal voting power and prevents any concentration of control in the hands of a few large shareholders.

However, it’s important to note that voting power may vary based on the number of shares an individual holds. In some cases, companies employ different structures, such as dual-class shares, where certain shareholders enjoy greater voting power. This arrangement can give founders or key stakeholders more control over the company’s decision-making process, which may be seen as a way to protect the company’s long-term vision.

Furthermore, the voting rights attached to ordinary shares can significantly impact the governance of a company. Shareholders exercise their voting rights during annual general meetings and extraordinary general meetings, where important decisions are made. These decisions can range from approving major investments to selecting auditors and approving executive compensation packages.

In addition to voting rights, ordinary shareholders also have the right to receive dividends. Dividends are a portion of the company’s profits distributed to shareholders as a return on their investment. The amount of dividends received is usually proportional to the number of ordinary shares held. This provides shareholders with a direct financial benefit and can be an important source of income for individual investors.

Moreover, ordinary shares can be bought and sold on stock exchanges, providing liquidity to investors. This means that shareholders can easily convert their investment into cash by selling their shares to other interested parties. The ability to trade ordinary shares on the open market enhances the attractiveness of these shares as an investment option, as it allows investors to enter or exit their positions relatively quickly.

In conclusion, ordinary shares play a crucial role in a company by determining ownership, providing voting rights, and offering the potential for financial returns. They give investors the opportunity to have a say in the company’s decision-making process and share in its success. However, it’s important for shareholders to understand the voting power attached to their shares and the potential risks and rewards associated with investing in ordinary shares.

Financial Aspects of Ordinary Shares

When considering investing in ordinary shares, it is important to understand the various financial aspects associated with them. Ordinary shares offer investors the potential to receive dividends, which are payments made by a company to its shareholders from its profits. These dividends can be distributed on a regular basis or during specific periods, such as interim or final dividends.

However, it is crucial to note that the decision to pay dividends lies solely with the company’s management. They consider factors such as profitability, cash flow, and strategic goals when determining whether to distribute dividends. Therefore, while ordinary shares provide an opportunity for dividend income, it is not a guarantee.

Dividends and Ordinary Shares

Dividends play a significant role in attracting investors to ordinary shares. They serve as a way for companies to share their profits with shareholders, rewarding them for their investment. The amount of dividends paid can vary based on the company’s financial performance and its ability to generate profits.

For investors, dividends can provide a steady stream of income, especially if they hold a significant number of ordinary shares in profitable companies. This income can be reinvested or used to meet financial goals, such as retirement planning or funding education.

However, it is important to remember that not all companies pay dividends. Some companies may choose to reinvest their profits back into the business to fuel growth and expansion. In such cases, investors may benefit from capital appreciation, which is the increase in the value of their shares over time.

Risks and Returns of Ordinary Shares

Investing in ordinary shares involves weighing the risks and potential returns associated with them. The value of ordinary shares can fluctuate due to various factors, including economic conditions, market sentiment, industry trends, and company-specific events.

Market volatility can have a significant impact on the value of ordinary shares. During periods of economic uncertainty or market downturns, share prices may experience sharp declines. On the other hand, during periods of economic growth and market optimism, share prices may rise significantly.

To mitigate the risks associated with individual stocks, it is essential to diversify your investment portfolio. By spreading your investments across different companies and sectors, you can reduce the impact of any single stock’s performance on your overall portfolio. Diversification allows you to capture potential returns from various sources while minimizing the risk of significant losses.

Furthermore, conducting thorough research and staying informed about market conditions can assist in making informed investment decisions. Understanding the financial health of the companies you invest in, analyzing industry trends, and staying updated on economic indicators can help you assess the potential risks and returns associated with ordinary shares.

In conclusion, ordinary shares offer investors the potential to receive dividends, but the decision to pay dividends lies with the company’s management. Investing in ordinary shares involves weighing the risks and potential returns, and diversification and research are essential strategies to mitigate risks and make informed investment decisions.

Differences Between Ordinary Shares and Other Types of Shares

Ordinary Shares vs. Preference Shares

While ordinary shares represent the most common form of ownership, there are other types of shares as well, such as preference shares. Unlike ordinary shares, preference shares generally come with preferential treatment in terms of dividend payments and repayment of capital. Preference shareholders enjoy fixed dividends, which are paid before ordinary shareholders receive any dividends.

However, in the event of liquidation or bankruptcy, preference shareholders may have limited or no voting rights compared to ordinary shareholders. So, although preference shares offer certain benefits, they come with trade-offs when compared to ordinary shares.

Ordinary Shares vs. Cumulative Shares

Another distinction within ordinary shares lies between cumulative and non-cumulative shares. Cumulative shares entitle shareholders to accumulate unpaid dividends over time. If a company fails to pay dividends in one year, the dividends owed are carried forward and must be paid before ordinary shareholders receive any dividends in the future.

In contrast, non-cumulative shares do not carry forward unpaid dividends. If a company skips a dividend payment, non-cumulative shareholders do not have the right to demand those missed dividends in subsequent periods.

Buying and Selling Ordinary Shares

How to Purchase Ordinary Shares

Now that you understand the fundamentals of ordinary shares, you may be eager to explore how to purchase them. Buying ordinary shares can be done through various channels, such as stockbrokers, online trading platforms, or financial institutions that offer investment services. It’s important to research and select a reliable and reputable platform or intermediary to facilitate your purchase.

Prior to investing, it’s prudent to assess your risk appetite and financial goals. Additionally, conducting a thorough analysis of the company’s financial health, industry dynamics, and future prospects can help inform your investment decision.

Factors to Consider When Selling Ordinary Shares

When it comes to selling ordinary shares, several factors can influence your decision. Firstly, monitoring the performance of the company and the overall market conditions can provide insights into whether it’s an opportune moment to sell your shares.

Additionally, considering your investment goals, cash flow requirements, and any changes in your risk profile can guide your decision to sell. It’s advisable to consult with a financial advisor who can provide personalized guidance based on your unique circumstances and objectives.

So, there you have it – a comprehensive overview of ordinary shares and their significance in the financial landscape. By understanding the basics, key features, and nuances associated with ordinary shares, you’re better equipped to navigate the world of investments and make informed decisions. Remember, knowledge is power, and when it comes to finance, empowering yourself is the key to success.

Scroll to Top

Almost there!

Enter your email below to receive my four free stock trading ebooks with everything you need to start trading the UK stocks.


Get your free stock trading ebooks

Get four free UK stock market ebooks and my monthly trading newsletter with trade ideas and things learned from trading stocks


Don't miss out!

Get four free UK stock market ebooks and my monthly trading newsletter with trade ideas and things learned from trading stocks