What is book value? Definition, how to calculate and FAQ

What is book value?

Book value is an accounting measure of a company’s equity. It is a measure used to calculate the valuation of a business based on its assets and liabilities.

If owners or managers were looking to sell their business quickly and had to sort out the valuation, one method would be book value. By going through their balance sheet, they would subtract liabilities from assets, providing an amount of net assets. Another term for book value is shareholders’ equity, which is an item that can be found on the balance sheets of quarterly and annual filings of publicly traded companies with the Securities and Exchange Commission. It is usually found in the assets, liabilities and equity section of the balance sheet.

Net income can play a major role in the book value of a business, and owners or managers generally want their business valuation to increase: the higher the profits, the higher the book value; conversely, a drop in profits can lead to a drop in book value. It’s easier to increase or decrease profits on a quarterly basis because other assets and liabilities tend to fluctuate less than net income.

How do you calculate the book value?

Book value = Assets – Liabilities


Book value can be calculated in a simplified way by subtracting a company’s liabilities from its assets. In many cases, however, other items are included in this calculation, and it is not as simple as subtracting the “Total liabilities” item from the “Total assets” item.

In the financial statements of The Coca-Cola Company, for example, equity would be listed as “total equity,” which subtracted all types of liabilities, including long-term debt, from “total equity”. active ”. Amazon lists its equity simply as “total equity”.

Why is book value important?

For startups, book value is a basic metric to measure the valuation of their business. They do not have stocks that are freely traded and, therefore, are priced in the public market. There are other valuation methods for start-ups, of course, but book value provides tangible assets such as equipment, property, and inventory.

A publicly traded company, on the other hand, will have a published market price, giving investors the ability to compare the market value of the company to its book value. Book value tends to be less than market value because shareholders generally place a premium on the price. However, if the book value is greater than the market value then the company would be considered undervalued but, despite this, it is rare to see the book value equal to or less than the market value. However, unusual events such as stock market crashes can cause the market value to drop sharply. At the start of the 2020 pandemic, panic selling caused the stock prices of many companies to plummet, and in late March and early April the market value of some fell below their book value.

It is difficult to predict the assets or liabilities of a business or to gather this information in real time. Investors therefore use the most recent data and combine it with the latest stock price to calculate the price-to-book ratio.

TheStreet Dictionary Terms

Below is a table of the book values ​​of companies at the end of the third quarter of 2021 compared to their market capitalization at the end of November, in billions of dollars.

Form 10-Q Deposits

Society Book value Market valuation

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Coca Cola



Berkshire Hathaway



Book value vs market value vs intrinsic value, according to Warren Buffett

In recent decades, famed investor Warren Buffett has placed less emphasis on book value, claiming in Berkshire Hathaway’s annual reports that it is a weak indicator for gauging a company’s value. Instead, he prefers to look at market value and go deeper, intrinsic value, which in layman’s terms, he says, is the present value of money that can be taken out of a business during its life. remaining life.

He used a college degree as an example where the book value was roughly the cost of education, while the intrinsic value was roughly the difference between the graduate’s income over his lifetime and what the graduate would have. been his income during his life without a degree. Buffett focuses on the future (intrinsic) value of a business for its profit potential rather than its historical (book) value. In fact, he goes on to say that book value does not make sense as an indicator of intrinsic value.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions investors have about book value.

Are book value and market value the same?

Market value is calculated by multiplying the number of outstanding shares of a company by the price of its shares, while book value is the difference between its assets and liabilities.

What is book value per share?

Book value per share is calculated by taking equity and dividing it by the number of shares outstanding, which gives book value per share.

What is the price-to-book ratio?

This ratio measures how the market valuation of a company compares to its book value. A high ratio may indicate overvaluation, while a low ratio suggests it is at fair value or undervalued.

How is book value used in calculating return on equity?

Return on equity is calculated by dividing net income by book value.

Can the book value be negative?

Book value can be negative if a company’s liabilities exceed its assets. In many cases, a negative book value could mean that a business is bankrupt.

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