TIP OF THE WEEK – Book Value or Equity and How to Calculate Book Value per Share

Book Value or Equity and How to Calculate Book Value per Share

Jason Brizic

April 6th, 2012

Knowing the book value of a company helps the intelligent investor to buy low.

You want to buy assets that produce profits as cheap as possible.

The following comes from Benjamin Graham’s 1937 book The Interpretation of Financial Statements.

The book value of a security is in most cases a rather artificial value.  It is assumed that if the company were to liquidate, it would receive in cash the value at which its various tangible assets are carried on the books.  Then the amounts applicable to the various securities in their due order would be their book value.  (The word “equity” is frequently used instead of book value in this sense, but it is generally applied only to common stocks and to speculative senior securities.)

As a matter of fact, if the company were actually liquidated the value of the assets would most probably be much less than their book value as shown on the balance sheet.  An appreciable loss is likely to be realized on the sale of the inventory, and a very substantial shrinkage is almost certain to be suffered in the value of the fixed assets.  In practically every case the adverse conditions which would lead to a decision to liquidate the business would also make it impossible to obtain anywhere near cost or reproduction price for the plant and machinery.

The book value really measures, therefore, not what the stockholders could get out of their business (its liquidating value), but rather what they have put into the business, including undistributed earnings.  The book value is of some importance in analysis because a very rough relationship tends to exist between the amount invested in a business and its average earnings.  It is true that in many individual cases we find companies with small asset values earning large profits, while others with large asset values earn little or nothing.  Yet in these cases some attention must be given to the book value situation, for there is always a possibility that large earnings on the invested capital may attract competition and thus prove temporary; also that large assets, not now earning profits, may later be made more productive.


As has already been said, in calculating book value it is assumed that the company’s assets are worth the figure shown on the balance sheet.  Indeed, book value simply means the value as shown by the books or balance sheet.

To take a simple example, a company’s balance sheet is as follows:

Fixed Property


Capital Stock






Current Assets


Current Liabilities




In this case the capital stock is represented by 17,000 shares of $100 par value common stock.  To find the book value of the common stock, add the $100,000 surplus to the $1,700,000 value shown for the stock, making a total of $1,800,000.  Then look on the asset side of the balance sheet for intangibles.  You will find $500,000 good-will.  This is then deducted from the $1,800,000, leaving $1,300,000 equity available for the 17,000 common shares.  Incidentally, the figure $1,300,000 is often referred to as the “net tangible assets” of the company.  Dividing this out, the net book value per share would be $76.47.

If you had not deducted the intangibles and had simply divided the $1,800,000 by the 17,000 shares you would have found the book value per share to be $105.88.  You will not that there is quite a difference between this book value and the net book value of $76.47 a share.  If only “book value” of the stock is mentioned, tangible or net book value is usually meant.  The larger figure may be termed: “Book value, including intangibles.”

I will perform this calculation on one of my favorite high dividend stocks – Safe Bulkers (SB)

Fixed Property


Capital Stock




Additional Paid-in Capital


Current Assets


Retained Earnings


Other Investments


Current Liabilities


Other Long Term Assets


Non-current Liabilities




All of this balance sheet information is as of 4Q 2011.  Safe Bulkers has since added another 5,750,000 shares and $37,375,000 in additional paid-in capital since the 4Q 2011 report.  Safe Bulkers had 70,896,924 shares at the time of the 4Q 2011 financials report.

Safe Bulkers had $331,842,000 in book value at the end of 4Q 2011 (equity values – intangibles; highlighted in yellow above).  Divided that by 70,896,924 shares and you get a book value per share of $4.68.  That would be a very nice, low price to buy Safe Bulkers at.  Safe Bulkers sold for $3.00 – $2.50 per share at the depths of the 2009 recession.

Safe Bulkers book value per share rises to $4.82 if you include the additional paid-in capital the company raised after 4Q 2011.  This also assumes they didn’t incur any new liabilities in the meantime either.

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Published in: on April 6, 2012 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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