If you want to know who really controls The Southern Company (NYSE:SO), then you'll have to look at the makeup of its share registry. Large companies usually have institutions as shareholders, and we usually see insiders owning shares in smaller companies. Companies that have been privatized tend to have low insider ownership.
With a market capitalization of US$61b, Southern is rather large. We'd expect to see institutional investors on the register. Companies of this size are usually well known to retail investors, too. In the chart below, we can see that institutional investors have bought into the company. We can zoom in on the different ownership groups, to learn more about Southern.
What Does The Institutional Ownership Tell Us About Southern?
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.
We can see that Southern does have institutional investors; and they hold a good portion of the company's stock. This suggests some credibility amongst professional investors. But we can't rely on that fact alone since institutions make bad investments sometimes, just like everyone does. If multiple institutions change their view on a stock at the same time, you could see the share price drop fast. It's therefore worth looking at Southern's earnings history below. Of course, the future is what really matters.
Institutional investors own over 50% of the company, so together than can probably strongly influence board decisions. Hedge funds don't have many shares in Southern. Looking at our data, we can see that the largest shareholder is The Vanguard Group, Inc. with 8.7% of shares outstanding. In comparison, the second and third largest shareholders hold about 7.1% and 5.3% of the stock.
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. 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 Southern
While the precise definition of an insider can be subjective, almost everyone considers board members to be insiders. 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 information suggests that The Southern Company insiders own under 1% of the company. 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$105m 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 holds a 41% stake in Southern. This size of ownership, while considerable, may not be enough to change company policy if the decision is not in sync with other large shareholders.
It's always worth thinking about the different groups who own shares in a company. But to understand Southern better, we need to consider many other factors. Be aware that Southern is showing 2 warning signs in our investment analysis , and 1 of those is a bit unpleasant...
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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This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. We aim to bring you long-term focused analysis driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis may not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements or qualitative material. Simply Wall St has no position in any stocks mentioned.
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