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What is the free float in stock valuation?

Understanding the Free Float in Stock Valuation

In the world of investing and stock market trading, countless terms, concepts, and metrics paint a comprehensive picture of a company’s financial health and potential for growth. One such term that plays a significant role in stock valuation is ‘free float’.

Defining ‘Free Float’

Free float, also referred to as ‘public float’, pertains to the number of a company’s outstanding shares that are available to the public for trading. In particular, locked-in shares—such as those owned by governments and business promoters—are not included in the total number of outstanding shares due to free float.

The free float thus serves as an important marker for potential investors because it essentially values the liquidity of a company’s shares. The higher the free float, the less drastic price volatility tends to be, as larger volume trades can be made without significantly impacting the market price.

Importance of Free Float in Stock Valuation

To understand the intricacy of how the stock market operates, one should grasp the importance of free floats in stock valuation. Free float is an indispensable term in the world of investment, primarily because:

Liquidity of Shares

The liquidity of a company’s shares refers to how easy it is to buy or sell the shares without impacting the market price. The higher the free float, the easier it is to buy or sell shares. A high free float often corresponds to a lower ask-bid spread, which is beneficial for investors.

Index Weightage

Another area where free float has a significant impact is index weightage. In most of the leading stock markets, the weightage given to individual stocks in indexes is determined to a significant extent by their free float level. Thus, a higher free float will usually mean a higher index weightage, attracting more extensive investment from indexed funds, for instance.

Determines Market Capitalization

In many stock exchanges around the world, free-float market capitalization is often adopted. This type of market capitalization is calculated by multiplying the stock’s market price by the number of outstanding shares available for trading. As such, free float plays a direct role in market capitalization, which is a critical measure of a company’s value.

Calculation of Free Float

Free float is calculated by subtracting the locked-in shares from a company’s total outstanding shares. Locked-in shares include holdings by promoters or government entities, employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), and shares subject to statutory lock-in periods due to regulatory stipulations. All issued shares, including those held by individual and institutional investors, are typically included in the number of outstanding shares.

Impact of Free Float on Stock Valuation

Although a company’s free float doesn’t directly affect its intrinsic value, it can have a significant influence on stock price movements. A high free float means a large number of shares are available to the trading public, potentially allowing for larger volume trades without significantly impacting the market price. Conversely, a low free float can lead to high price volatility due to the limited share supply.


In summary, understanding the concept of a free float is critical in the world of stock market investing. Primarily, it is an essential component in calculating the market capitalization of a company, which is then used as a factor in investment decision-making. It provides investors with a clear view of the actual market liquidity and expected volatility of a company’s stock price, which can guide them in making informed decisions.

Investors, especially those new to the stock market, must take time to comprehend elements like the free float. While it is just one of many variables that go into making an investment choice, its role is certainly significant in the overall picture. By comprehending such factors, one can make more informed and potentially profitable investment decisions.