What Does Walmart's 3-for-1 Stock Split Mean?

Shareholders will receive a distribution of two additional shares of common stock for each share held for shareholders of record at the close of business on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024.

Ruth Saldanha 30 January, 2024 | 5:06PM
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On Tuesday, January 30th 2024, grocer and retailer Walmart WMT announced plans for a 3-for-1 stock split. The retail giant said the split was part of the company's "ongoing review of optimal trading and spread levels," according to a Dow Jones newswire article.

"Walmart's stock purchase plan for employees allows certain associates to buy stock through payroll deductions. The program provides for a 15% company match on the first $1,800 per year, the company said. The shares issued in the split will be payable after the market closes February 23, and shares will begin trading on a split-adjusted basis February 26. Walmart expects the total number of shares to increase to about 8.1 billion from 2.7 billion," the Dow Jones newswire article stated.

The last time Walmart split shares was in April of 1999. What does this mean, though?

What is a Stock Split? 

Simply put, a stock split is exactly what it sounds like. One share gets divided, or split, into multiple shares. Don’t worry, though. The value of your holdings is the same, just in smaller chunks. 

Think about it like a dark chocolate bar. Your one big dark chocolate bar is broken down into multiple bite-size pieces. You still have the same amount of chocolate, just in smaller pieces.

Chocolate bar

Similarly, in a stock split, it is very important to remember that the price of the share also is reduced. For example, if a company board announces a two-for-one split, then you get one extra share for each share you own. But the share price will be halved. In this example of a two-for-one split, if you had one share of Company X at $10 per share, you now have two shares of Company X at $5 per share.

This does not mean that the stock has become cheaper. The fundamentals of the company and the stock price have not changed. Sticking with the dark chocolate bar analogy, after breaking the bark into smaller bits, you have smaller bits of dark chocolate, not more chocolate overall.

Why do Companies Announce Stock Splits?

Stock splits are a way for companies to increase the overall liquidity.

Liquidity means the ease with which investors can buy or sell shares on a stock exchange. The smaller the dollar amount of each share, the smaller the number of dollars needed by even the smallest investor to buy or sell that stock.

In most cases, stock splits are undertaken by companies when the share price has gone up significantly, particularly in relation to a company’s stock-market peers. If the share price becomes more affordable for smaller investors, it can reasonably be assumed that more investors will participate, and so the overall liquidity of the stock would increase as well.

But remember this with stock splits: Though the number of outstanding shares changes, and though the price of each share changes, the overall market capitalization of the company stays the same. The value of the company doesn’t increase when a split occurs, therefore the value of your stocks, your shares, doesn’t change, either. Buying and selling stocks is now easier than ever, and for many investors, these stock splits might be an entry point for companies they have long admired.

However, additional participation by smaller investors could also lead to the price increasing, and the Walmart stock price rose immediately after the stock split announcement.

“When we strictly observe the value of an investment immediately after a stock split, there really isn’t a discernable pattern in the change in wealth. What is noticeable is the trading volume of the stock which might be attributed to news flow. All this said, for long term investors in a stock, a stock split (or reverse split) really doesn’t affect the fundamental value of the company or the wealth in your pocket,” points out Morningstar Canada’s Director of Investment Research Ian Tam.

Does the Company Change?

Not at all. Stock splits do not alter the fundamentals of the company in any way, apart from the short-term price increases we described earlier. There’s no harm done in this regard if the stock doesn’t split either.

What is a Reverse Stock Split?

The opposite of a stock split is a reverse stock split.

In the case of reverse stock splits, the company divides the number of shares that investors own, rather than multiplying them. As a result, the price of the shares increases.

For instance, if you own 10 shares of Company X at $10 per share, and the company announces a one-for-two reverse stock split, you end up owning five shares of Company X at $20 per share. Usually, reverse stock splits are announced by companies that have low share prices and want to increase them – oftentimes to avoid being delisted. 

You may think that reverse stock splits are bad news for the company, but this is not always the case. One of the most famous examples of reverse stock splits is Citigroup (C). Its share price declined to under $10 during the 2008 financial crisis and stayed there, so the board decided in 2011 Citigroup to do a reverse split of one-for-ten. The split took the price from US$ 4.50 per share to US$ 45 per share. The company—and the stock—survived and is now trading at around US$ 52 per share.

See, just math!

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Securities Mentioned in Article

Security NamePriceChange (%)Morningstar Rating
Walmart Inc67.02 USD0.48Rating

About Author

Ruth Saldanha

Ruth Saldanha  is Editorial Manager at Morningstar.ca. Follow her on Twitter @KarishmaRuth.


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