What is the difference between market capitalization and market value?

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In many areas of the financial sector, including economics, accounting and investing, accurately assessing the value of a company can be of utmost importance. There are numerous ways to measure company size and value, and confusion naturally often arises, especially with similar-sounding terms. Two such misleading terms are market capitalization and market value. While each is a measure of corporate assets, the two are vastly different in its calculation and precision.

Market capitalization, colloquially referred to as “market cap,” is a very simple metric based on stock price. To calculate a company’s market cap, simply multiply the number of shares outstanding by the current price of a single share. For example, a company with 50 million shares and a stock price of $100 per share would have a market cap of $5 billion. This definition of company “value” is often used in the investment sector to determine the size and strength of a company when analyzing potential trade opportunities.

Confusion stems from the fact that market capitalization is essentially a synonym for the market value of equity. However, these concepts are simple calculations based on assets only. While market cap is often referred to as the value of a company, or what a company is “worth,” a company’s true market value is infinitely more complex. Market value is assessed using numerous metric and multiples, such as price-to-earnings, price-to-sales and return-on-equity. These different metrics take into account several factors in addition to stockholder equity, such as outstanding bonds, long-term growth potential, corporate debt, taxes and interest payments.

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