What Is The Ownership Structure Like For American Express Company (NYSE:AXP)?

Every investor in American Express Company (NYSE:AXP) should be aware of the most powerful shareholder groups. Insiders often own a large chunk of younger, smaller, companies while huge companies tend to have institutions as shareholders. Companies that used to be publicly owned tend to have lower insider ownership.

With a market capitalization of US$118b, American Express 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. Taking a look at our data on the ownership groups (below), it seems that institutions own shares in the company. We can zoom in on the different ownership groups, to learn more about American Express.

Check out our latest analysis for American Express

ownership-breakdown
ownership-breakdown

What Does The Institutional Ownership Tell Us About American Express?

Many institutions measure their performance against an index that approximates the local market. So they usually pay more attention to companies that are included in major indices.

As you can see, institutional investors have a fair amount of stake in American Express. This implies the analysts working for those institutions have looked at the stock and they like it. But just like anyone else, they could be wrong. When multiple institutions own a stock, there's always a risk that they are in a 'crowded trade'. When such a trade goes wrong, multiple parties may compete to sell stock fast. This risk is higher in a company without a history of growth. You can see American Express' historic earnings and revenue below, but keep in mind there's always more to the story.

earnings-and-revenue-growth
earnings-and-revenue-growth

Institutional investors own over 50% of the company, so together than can probably strongly influence board decisions. American Express is not owned by hedge funds. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is currently the largest shareholder, with 20% of shares outstanding. In comparison, the second and third largest shareholders hold about 6.2% and 5.9% of the stock.

A closer look at our ownership figures suggests that the top 11 shareholders have a combined ownership of 50% implying that no single shareholder has a majority.

While studying institutional ownership for a company can add value to your research, it is also a good practice to research analyst recommendations to get a deeper understand of a stock's expected performance. There are plenty of analysts covering the stock, so it might be worth seeing what they are forecasting, too.

Insider Ownership Of American Express

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.

Most consider insider ownership a positive because it can indicate the board is well aligned with other shareholders. However, on some occasions too much power is concentrated within this group.

Our data suggests that insiders own under 1% of American Express Company in their own names. Being so large, we would not expect insiders to own a large proportion of the stock. Collectively, they own US$135m of stock. In this sort of situation, it can be more interesting to see if those insiders have been buying or selling.

General Public Ownership

With a 13% ownership, the general public, mostly comprising of individual investors, have some degree of sway over American Express. While this size of ownership may not be enough to sway a policy decision in their favour, they can still make a collective impact on company policies.

Public Company Ownership

It appears to us that public companies own 20% of American Express. We can't be certain but it is quite possible this is a strategic stake. The businesses may be similar, or work together.

Next Steps:

While it is well worth considering the different groups that own a company, there are other factors that are even more important. Take risks for example - American Express has 2 warning signs we think you should be aware of.

Ultimately the future is most important. You can access this free report on analyst forecasts for the company.

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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. We provide commentary based on historical data and analyst forecasts only using an unbiased methodology and our articles are not intended to be financial advice. 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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