Simply put, the shareholders of a company are its owners. As owners, they participate in the
management of the company by appointing its board of directors and voicing their opinions,
and voting in the general meetings of the company. The board of directors have general oversight of the company, appoints the management team to look after the day-to-day running of the business, set overall policies aimed at maximizing profits and shareholder value.
Shareholders of a company are said to have limited liability. The term means that the liability of shareholders is limited to the unpaid amount on the shares. This implies that the maximum loss of shareholder in a company is limited to her original investment. Being the owners, shareholders have the last claim on the assets of the company at the time of liquidation, while debt- or bondholders always have precedence over equity shareholders. At its incorporation, every company is authorized to issue a fixed number of shares, each priced at par value, or face value in India.
The face value of shares is usually set at nominal levels (Rs. 10 or Re. 1 in India for the most part). Corporations generally retain portions of their authorized stock as reserved stock, for future issuance at any point in time. Shares are usually valued much higher than the face value and this initial investment in the company by shareholders represents their paid-in capital in the company. The company then generates earnings from its operating, investing and other activities. A portion of these earnings are distributed back to the shareholders as dividend, the rest retained for future investments. The sum total of the paid-in capital and retained earnings is called the book value of equity of the company.
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