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As of 2020/6/10, if you look at the Microsoft stock (link below), you will see that the company has a Mkt cap of $1.49T. For some time now I had been under the impression that this figure indicated the total worth of the company.

https://www.google.com/search?q=msft+stock

For instance, if a publicly traded company has a Mkt cap of about $2M, I would have assumed that if somebody was in the process of acquiring the said company, that somebody would have to shell out a sum not much greater than $2M at the end of the deal.

A few days ago, I realized that my understanding could be flawed. For instance if a company is listed on multiple exchanges, then the Mkt cap would indicate the total worth on that exchange.

So what would be a good way to estimate the total worth of a company as the market currently sees it? Is there a metric in the quarterly/annual report that can be used? Please feel free to point out other mistaken assumptions that I may have laid out above.

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For instance if a company is listed on multiple exchanges, then the Mkt cap would indicate the total worth on that exchange.

No, this is not true. Shares are shares - a company is not "split" into pieces on multiple exchanges.

For instance, if a publicly traded company has a Market cap of about $2M, I would have assumed that if somebody was in the process of acquiring the said company, that somebody would have to shell out a sum not much greater than $2M at the end of the deal.

Depending on the situation, it might actually take quite a bit more than the market cap to acquire the company. If the takeover were hostile (meaning that the buyer couldn't come to an agreement with shareholders on a purchase price), then the act of buying shares would naturally raise the price as people hold out to sell at a higher price.

On the other hand, one could acquire 50% + 1 share of the company and own a controlling interest, thus gaining control of the board and effectively control the company, but would still only own half of the actual company.

So what would be a good way to estimate the total worth of a company as the market currently sees it?

In finance, any financial instrument (including the stock of a company) is worth the present value of its future cash flows. A company is no different, but more complicated to measure. How do you estimate what the future cash flows will be? How much do you discount the future cash flows to get a present value? These are matters of opinion and can fluctuate greatly depending on who is doing the estimating.

Market cap is a measure of what the owners of the company on average think the company is worth (provided the stock is trading at a fair value), but that's just one measure.

One can also look at the book value of a company, which indicates what the assets of the company could be sold for less the debt that would need to be paid off. This, too is imprecise since the value on the balance sheet is not always the value that the assets could be sold for.

There are also other measures, such as enterprise value, and value based on certain multiples of financial measures like EBITDA that can be used for rough estimates.

So there's not one answer for the "value" of a company- it depends on the context.

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  • Thanks for the answer; can't upvote bcoz of rep<15; will accept in a few days. However, I did have a follow up question: How to calculate total market cap?. Is it the addition of Mkt caps across all exchanges that a company is listed on? Do companies note all exchanges on which they're publicly listed, in their quarterly reports? If you recommend, I will ask this as a separate question. – borejwaz Jun 11 '20 at 4:46
  • I think I implied it - but you do not "add up market caps across exchanges". The market cap should be roughly the same in all exchanges with only minor differences (fluctuating exchange rates, overhead for international listings, etc.) If you see examples of significant differences, then that could be a separate question, but I would just take the market cap from any exchange in the company's home country. – D Stanley Jun 11 '20 at 12:42
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Total worth of a company itself is a debatable concept. If defined as its market capitalization, then it is typically calculated as number of shares outstanding * current market price of a single share. However, even this calculation is very flawed if you are thinking about it in terms of "what it would cost to purchase the company outright".

There is typically a significant premium attached to buying a majority stake in a company, even more so if buying all shares. Some share holders may not be willing to sell their shares at the current prices, institutional investors may be aware of the operation and making you pay dearly for the privilege of buying the company and also the mere increase in demand for the stock that you are creating will drive its price up.

There are, however, other definitions of "worth" that depend on your objective. If you are looking to purchase a company's assets, then the market or fair value of their assets would be a better measure, although it is also more difficult to obtain (not all assets are presented in financial statements at fair value). If you wish to invest as a shareholder, then you may be more interested in comparing a Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) valuation of the company with its current market value.

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