Institutional owners may take dramatic actions as Costco Wholesale Corporation's (NASDAQ:COST) recent 7.3% drop adds to one-year losses

If you want to know who really controls Costco Wholesale Corporation (NASDAQ:COST), then you'll have to look at the makeup of its share registry. The group holding the most number of shares in the company, around 68% to be precise, is institutions. In other words, the group stands to gain the most (or lose the most) from their investment into the company.

And so it follows that institutional investors was the group most impacted after the company's market cap fell to US$219b last week after a 7.3% drop in the share price. Needless to say, the recent loss which further adds to the one-year loss to shareholders of 5.9% might not go down well especially with this category of shareholders. Also referred to as "smart money", institutions have a lot of sway over how a stock's price moves. As a result, if the downtrend continues, institutions may face pressures to sell Costco Wholesale, which might have negative implications on individual investors.

Let's delve deeper into each type of owner of Costco Wholesale, beginning with the chart below.

View our latest analysis for Costco Wholesale

ownership-breakdown
ownership-breakdown

What Does The Institutional Ownership Tell Us About Costco Wholesale?

Institutions typically measure themselves against a benchmark when reporting to their own investors, so they often become more enthusiastic about a stock once it's included in a major index. We would expect most companies to have some institutions on the register, especially if they are growing.

We can see that Costco Wholesale does have institutional investors; and they hold a good portion of the company's stock. 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. If multiple institutions change their view on a stock at the same time, you could see the share price drop fast. It's therefore worth looking at Costco Wholesale's earnings history below. Of course, the future is what really matters.

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. Hedge funds don't have many shares in Costco Wholesale. The Vanguard Group, Inc. is currently the company's largest shareholder with 8.8% of shares outstanding. For context, the second largest shareholder holds about 6.8% of the shares outstanding, followed by an ownership of 4.2% by the third-largest shareholder.

Our studies suggest that the top 25 shareholders collectively control less than half of the company's shares, meaning that the company's shares are widely disseminated and there is no dominant shareholder.

Researching institutional ownership is a good way to gauge and filter a stock's expected performance. The same can be achieved by studying analyst sentiments. Quite a few analysts cover the stock, so you could look into forecast growth quite easily.

Insider Ownership Of Costco Wholesale

While the precise definition of an insider can be subjective, almost everyone considers board members to be insiders. Company management run the business, but the CEO will answer to the board, even if he or she is a member of it.

Insider ownership is positive when it signals leadership are thinking like the true owners of the company. However, high insider ownership can also give immense power to a small group within the company. This can be negative in some circumstances.

Our data suggests that insiders own under 1% of Costco Wholesale Corporation in their own names. Being so large, we would not expect insiders to own a large proportion of the stock. Collectively, they own US$547m of stock. It is good to see board members owning shares, but it might be worth checking if those insiders have been buying.

General Public Ownership

The general public, who are usually individual investors, hold a 31% stake in Costco Wholesale. This size of ownership, while considerable, may not be enough to change company policy if the decision is not in sync with other large shareholders.

Next Steps:

I find it very interesting to look at who exactly owns a company. But to truly gain insight, we need to consider other information, too. Be aware that Costco Wholesale is showing 1 warning sign in our investment analysis , you should know about...

If you are like me, you may want to think about whether this company will grow or shrink. Luckily, you can check this free report showing analyst forecasts for its future.

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.

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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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