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Given the definition: Market capitalization (market cap) is the total market value of the shares outstanding of a publicly traded company; it is equal to the share price times the number of shares outstanding.

I find it quite puzzling to find different numbers everywhere for Google's (now renamed Alphabet) market capitalisation. I have summarised my findings in this Google sheet (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1C8sSp7Kf3wdiiYFHCGM2I3qvjESbLjZR04OCFZHBDi0/edit?usp=sharing) hope you can all access it.

It ranges from the totally wrong for Market Cap (see CNBC), to inconsistent (see Nasdaq, WSJ and Yahoo finance) to differences in number of shares (Google finance and Bloomberg.com don't seem to agree on the number of outstanding shares). My aim is first to understand what is the right number for outstanding shares and market cap and second what is the right "price" for the Class B shares that are unlisted.

Data in the sheet is as of Feb 4th, 2016 11AM Sydney time (so based on closing prices, way after market closes).

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  • $\begingroup$ There are different classes of shares. What the "voting" and "ownership" are truly worth is up to the market or opinion of the analyst. Class A: NASDAQ:GOOG, 1 voting, 1 ownership. Class B: unlisted, 10 voting, 1 ownership. Class C: NASDAQ:GOOGL, 0 voting, 1 ownership One analyst might put Class B shares on the same valuation as Class A shares. Another analyst might put class B shares as A+10*(A-C). It's evident that public financial portals have little interest in even trying to do it right. $\endgroup$ – Norgate Data Mar 29 '16 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ or explain their methodology. Wait until you have a look at Berkshire Hathway for another interesting case. Another interesting case is BHP Billiton, which actually has two primary listings, multiple secondary listings and two US-listed ADRs. $\endgroup$ – Norgate Data Mar 29 '16 at 9:45
  • $\begingroup$ Well, at least both Berkshire shares are listed, so there is an observable price on the market for both. The additional difficulty with Google is that one of the shares is unlisted, and everybody seems to give a different value and that value doesn't seem related to the value of Class A or Class C. $\endgroup$ – Bondifrench Apr 5 '16 at 1:57
  • $\begingroup$ It's certainly possible to derive a value of "voting" shares though by looking at the difference between A and C shares - my formula above should give the most reasonable determination for a derived value of voting. On Friday 28 May 2016 the difference between A and C shares was 14.94. Therefore you could infer that the class B shares are worth 732.66 (the class C price) + 10 * 14.94. i.e. 873.60. Note that Class B shares automatically convert to Class A shares upon sale or transfer, so maybe they are worth 747.60 at best. $\endgroup$ – Norgate Data May 28 '16 at 7:30
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This has been driving me nuts as well!

Thanks for providing the spreadsheet. Looking at MSN Money there is a discrepancy of over 11B in market cap between viewing GOOG and GOOGL shares! GOOGL has a market cap associated with 537B and GOOG has a market cap of 526B. I don't understand how one site can list two different market caps based on the class of shares being viewed. I thought it would be Class A Price x Class A Shares Outstanding, + Class B... + Class C... I would think that these should add up to the same amount regardless of which class of shares you are viewing, but apparently not.

GOOG vs. GOOGL market cap

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  • $\begingroup$ This is priceless, thanks for your input. I have added MSN Money to the spreadsheet. It's even more ridiculous with this website as 1) the Market Cap is inconsistent between what's shown for GOOG and GOOGL 2) but on on top of it, the market cap calculated just with GOOG and GOOGL stock prices and shares outstandings is higher than the displayed Market Cap on each stock pages, implying that the Class B shares have an implied value which is negative. Awesome... $\endgroup$ – Bondifrench Feb 5 '16 at 2:56
  • $\begingroup$ Correction, there was a mistake in a formula in my spreadsheet, don't pay attention to my second comment, the discrepency between market caps displayed on GOOG and GOOGL pages remains though $\endgroup$ – Bondifrench Feb 5 '16 at 3:31
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There are many definitions of market cap and it is likely that depending on specific views and goals of different platforms or investment teams, one or several might get used.

Here are some variants I have been exposed to : 1) Definition given by Fenix. This is the most intuitive. A few questions asked frequently around that : a) What if a class is dual listed and has different prices ? b) What if a class is not listed ? c) Do you want the full market cap or the free float ? d) Also for some countries you might ask what part of this market cap is available to foreign investors.

2) Market Cap equivalent for a specific security... will be useful to have a Price to Earnings metrics for example. So each security has an equivalent market cap which is then used for ratios computations. Be aware that this number might need to be different depending on share structure (sometimes preferred have different attribution of earnings, so PE would need to be adjusted while BM wouldn't)

So in conclusion, I would ask myself : WHY do I want to use this market cap for ? And from there build my own formula and accept that there can be variations to what others think,compute and report.

Good luck !

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