With 74% institutional ownership, Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) is a favorite amongst the big guns

By
Simply Wall St
Published
April 15, 2022
NYSE:MRK
Source: Shutterstock

Every investor in Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK) should be aware of the most powerful shareholder groups. With 74% stake, institutions possess the maximum shares in the company. In other words, the group stands to gain the most (or lose the most) from their investment into the company.

Given the vast amount of money and research capacities at their disposal, institutional ownership tends to carry a lot of weight, especially with individual investors. As a result, a sizeable amount of institutional money invested in a firm is generally viewed as a positive attribute.

Let's delve deeper into each type of owner of Merck, beginning with the chart below.

See our latest analysis for Merck

ownership-breakdown
NYSE:MRK Ownership Breakdown April 15th 2022

What Does The Institutional Ownership Tell Us About Merck?

Institutional investors commonly compare their own returns to the returns of a commonly followed index. So they generally do consider buying larger companies that are included in the relevant benchmark index.

Merck already has institutions on the share registry. Indeed, they own a respectable stake in the company. This implies the analysts working for those institutions have looked at the stock and they like it. But just like anyone else, they could be wrong. It is not uncommon to see a big share price drop if two large institutional investors try to sell out of a stock at the same time. So it is worth checking the past earnings trajectory of Merck, (below). Of course, keep in mind that there are other factors to consider, too.

earnings-and-revenue-growth
NYSE:MRK Earnings and Revenue Growth April 15th 2022

Institutional investors own over 50% of the company, so together than can probably strongly influence board decisions. Merck is not owned by hedge funds. The Vanguard Group, Inc. is currently the largest shareholder, with 8.4% of shares outstanding. With 7.1% and 4.7% of the shares outstanding respectively, BlackRock, Inc. and State Street Global Advisors, Inc. are the second and third largest shareholders.

On studying our ownership data, we found that 25 of the top shareholders collectively own less than 50% of the share register, implying that no single individual has a majority interest.

While it makes sense to study institutional ownership data for a company, it also makes sense to study analyst sentiments to know which way the wind is blowing. Quite a few analysts cover the stock, so you could look into forecast growth quite easily.

Insider Ownership Of Merck

The definition of company insiders can be subjective and does vary between jurisdictions. Our data reflects individual insiders, capturing board members at the very least. The company management answer to the board and the latter should represent the interests of shareholders. Notably, sometimes top-level managers are on the board themselves.

Insider ownership is positive when it signals leadership are thinking like the true owners of the company. However, high insider ownership can also give immense power to a small group within the company. This can be negative in some circumstances.

Our most recent data indicates that insiders own less than 1% of Merck & Co., Inc.. It is a very large company, so it would be surprising to see insiders own a large proportion of the company. Though their holding amounts to less than 1%, we can see that board members collectively own US$164m worth of shares (at current prices). It is always good to see at least some insider ownership, but it might be worth checking if those insiders have been selling.

General Public Ownership

The general public, who are usually individual investors, hold a 26% stake in Merck. While this group can't necessarily call the shots, it can certainly have a real influence on how the company is run.

Next Steps:

It's always worth thinking about the different groups who own shares in a company. But to understand Merck better, we need to consider many other factors. Take risks for example - Merck has 1 warning sign we think you should be aware of.

Ultimately the future is most important. You can access this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

NB: Figures in this article are calculated using data from the last twelve months, which refer to the 12-month period ending on the last date of the month the financial statement is dated. This may not be consistent with full year annual report figures.

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