Equity, the core of financial markets, represents a company’s net worth, calculated as total assets minus total liabilities. In simpler terms, equity is akin to the paid-off portion of a home loan, where the value left after settling debts is the homeowner's equity. When investors buy shares in a company, they own a portion of its equity, entitling them to a share of the profits and assets, especially if the company liquidates.
The concept of equity shares dates back to 1602, with the Dutch East India Company's creation of joint-stock companies. These early companies spread investment risks across numerous investors, limiting each individual's risk to the amount invested. In South Africa, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) emerged from the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand in 1886, leading to the trading of share certificates in Johannesburg.
Shareholders, as part owners of a company, have distinct rights. They exercise their influence through voting rights, where each share translates to a vote at the Annual General Meeting (AGM). Shareholders also have the right to share in company profits, typically in the form of dividends, although this is subject to company performance and available profits.
Dividends are a key aspect of equity investment, often declared as a certain amount per share and dependent on the company's profitability. Additionally, companies may opt for scrip dividends or capitalisation issues, where cash reserves are converted into new shares instead of paying out cash dividends.
The listing of shares on a stock exchange, such as an initial public offering (IPO), involves various role players including investment banks, sponsors, transfer secretaries, auditors, and attorneys. These entities ensure the smooth execution of the listing process, adhering to stringent legal and financial standards.
Companies may choose to list their shares for various reasons, including providing an exit strategy for founders, enhancing liquidity, facilitating price discovery, and gaining access to a larger pool of investors. Listing also allows companies to offer liquid shares to employees, aligning their interests with the company’s performance.
Equity markets represent more than just a trading platform; they embody the essence of business ownership and profit sharing. As we continue exploring these concepts in our AFM NQF6 course, we invite those keen to deepen their understanding of financial markets to join us. For more information on our comprehensive course modules, visit AFM NQF6 Module Topics, and to enroll in the next NQF6 course, head to AFM NQF6 Enrollment.