DocuSign, Inc.'s (NASDAQ:DOCU) latest 11% decline adds to one-year losses, institutional investors may consider drastic measures

By
Simply Wall St
Published
January 24, 2022
NasdaqGS:DOCU
Source: Shutterstock

A look at the shareholders of DocuSign, Inc. (NASDAQ:DOCU) can tell us which group is most powerful. With 77% stake, institutions possess the maximum shares in the company. Put another way, the group faces the maximum upside potential (or downside risk).

And so it follows that institutional investors was the group most impacted after the company's market cap fell to US$23b last week after a 11% drop in the share price. Needless to say, the recent loss which further adds to the one-year loss to shareholders of 54% might not go down well especially with this category of shareholders. Often called “market makers”, institutions wield significant power in influencing the price dynamics of any stock. Hence, if weakness in DocuSign's share price continues, institutional investors may feel compelled to sell the stock, which might not be ideal for individual investors.

In the chart below, we zoom in on the different ownership groups of DocuSign.

See our latest analysis for DocuSign

ownership-breakdown
NasdaqGS:DOCU Ownership Breakdown January 24th 2022

What Does The Institutional Ownership Tell Us About DocuSign?

Institutions typically measure themselves against a benchmark when reporting to their own investors, so they often become more enthusiastic about a stock once it's included in a major index. We would expect most companies to have some institutions on the register, especially if they are growing.

As you can see, institutional investors have a fair amount of stake in DocuSign. 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. When multiple institutions own a stock, there's always a risk that they are in a 'crowded trade'. When such a trade goes wrong, multiple parties may compete to sell stock fast. This risk is higher in a company without a history of growth. You can see DocuSign's historic earnings and revenue below, but keep in mind there's always more to the story.

earnings-and-revenue-growth
NasdaqGS:DOCU Earnings and Revenue Growth January 24th 2022

Since institutional investors own more than half the issued stock, the board will likely have to pay attention to their preferences. We note that hedge funds don't have a meaningful investment in DocuSign. Our data shows that The Vanguard Group, Inc. is the largest shareholder with 7.1% of shares outstanding. In comparison, the second and third largest shareholders hold about 5.9% and 5.7% of the stock. Additionally, the company's CEO Daniel Springer directly holds 0.8% of the total shares outstanding.

A deeper look at our ownership data shows that the top 25 shareholders collectively hold less than half of the register, suggesting a large group of small holders where no single shareholder has a majority.

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. There are a reasonable number of analysts covering the stock, so it might be useful to find out their aggregate view on the future.

Insider Ownership Of DocuSign

While the precise definition of an insider can be subjective, almost everyone considers board members to be insiders. Management ultimately answers to the board. However, it is not uncommon for managers to be executive board members, especially if they are a founder or the CEO.

I generally consider insider ownership to be a good thing. However, on some occasions it makes it more difficult for other shareholders to hold the board accountable for decisions.

We can report that insiders do own shares in DocuSign, Inc.. Insiders own US$364m worth of shares (at current prices). Most would say this shows a good alignment of interests between shareholders and the board. Still, it might be worth checking if those insiders have been selling.

General Public Ownership

The general public-- including retail investors -- own 21% stake in the company, and hence can't easily be ignored. While this size of ownership may not be enough to sway a policy decision in their favour, they can still make a collective impact on company policies.

Next Steps:

It's always worth thinking about the different groups who own shares in a company. But to understand DocuSign better, we need to consider many other factors. Consider for instance, the ever-present spectre of investment risk. We've identified 2 warning signs with DocuSign , and understanding them should be part of your investment process.

If you are like me, you may want to think about whether this company will grow or shrink. Luckily, you can check this free report showing analyst forecasts for its future.

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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