What is Stock-Based Compensation?
Stock-based compensation also called share-based compensation refers to the rewards given by the company to its employees by way of giving them the equity ownership rights in the company with the motive of aligning the interest of the management, shareholders and the employees of the company.
Stock-Based Compensation is a way companies use to reward their employees. It is also popularly known as stock options or Employee stock options (ESOP). Stock Options are given to the employees to retain them or attract them and to make them behave in certain ways so that their interests are aligned with that of all the shareholders of the company.
The above chart compares stock-based compensation as a percentage of Total Assets of three companies – Facebook, Box Inc, and Amazon. Box Inc has the highest Stock-Based Compensation as a percentage of Total Assets at 15.88%. Amazon and Facebook, on the other hand, have this ratio at 4.95% and 3.57%.
Explanation of Stock-Based Compensation
Stock options allow the company’s employees to buy a specific amount of shares at a predetermined price. Stock options are allotted to specific employees. Stock options are different from other options that are available for the investor to buy and sell on exchange platforms, the difference being that a stock option is not available for investors and is not traded on exchange platforms. As noted earlier, stock options are given or rewarded to specific employees of the company. One of the reasons behind giving a stock option to employees is to retain them or attract them and to make them behave in certain ways so that their interests are aligned with that of all the shareholders of the company.
The employee of the company must wait for a specific period before he/she can exercise this option to buy the company’s share at a predetermined price. This waiting period is also called the vesting period. The vesting period also motivates the employee to stay with the company until the vesting period is over.
Impact of Stock-Based Compensation on Income Statement
Share-based compensation affects the Income Statement in two ways.
#1 – Decreased Net Income
Let us have a look at the Facebook Income Statement. Here the cost and expenses include the share-based compensation expense. This expense reduces the Net Income.
Also, note that Facebook has provided the breakup of Stock-based compensation included under each cost and expense item. Overall, in 2016, Facebook included $3,218 million worth of stock-based compensation.
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source: Facebook 10K Filings
#2 – Diluted Earnings Per Share
When we calculate Diluted EPS, we take the impact of the stock options exercised by the option holders. When stock options are exercised, the company needs to issue some additional shares to compensate the employees or investors who have exercised them. Due to this, the total number of outstanding shares increases resulting in a lower EPS.
As we see from below, Facebook Employee stock options increase the total number of outstanding shares, thereby reducing the Earnings Per Share.
source: Facebook 10K Filings
Overall, the impact of stock options on the income statement is to increase the expenses, reduce the net income, and increase the number of outstanding shares, all of which results in a smaller EPS.
Learn the calculation of Impact of Stock Options on Diluted EPS from this detailed article – Treasury Stock Method
Impact on the Balance Sheet
There are several ways a company can compensate its stock option holders. Here, we will consider the following two ways for explanation purpose:
First- The Company can pay the difference between the predetermined price and the price on the date of exercise.
Second- The Company has an option to issue additional shares in lieu of the stock options outstanding for the year.
If the company goes by the second option, the company will increase its paid-up capital in lieu of issuing the additional shares.
Impact on the Cash Flow Statement
Again consider the two ways of compensating the stock option holders as discussed above. If the company goes for the first option (paying the difference in cash), then it will have to record a cash outflow from Financing Activities in Cash Flow Statement. Thus, the Cash Flow from Financing Activities will be reduced by the same amount as the Cash on the Asset side of the Balance Sheet.
If the company goes for the second option of issuing shares instead of paying cash, then there will be no impact on the Cash Flow Statement as no cash flow will happen.
Stock-Based Compensation Video
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Stock-based compensation is a kind of compensation given by companies to their employees in the form of equity shares. This type of compensation is very commonly given by start-up companies to lock-in its executives for a minimum number of years. The executives who are given stock-based compensation can get the benefit of it only if they serve the company for the specified period.
The most common type of stock-based compensation is employee stock options (ESOPS). These options may have tax implications depending upon whether they are Non-Qualified Stock Options or Incentive Stock Options. The companies can either show the costs associated with ESOPS in their Income Statements or the footnotes.
If expensed and reported in the Income Statement, the exercising of the ESOPS by the employees results in a reduction in EPS. And if the company pays the difference between stock price and exercise price, the option holders, it results in a reduction in Owners’ Equity and Cash on the Balance Sheet and a reduction in Cash from Financing Activities on the Cash Flow Statement. And if the company compensates the option holders totally in terms of additional shares, the paid-up capital increases on the Balance Sheet while there will be no impact on the Cash Flow Statement.