Free Float in IPO: Definition, Role, and Importance

This article delves into the significance of free float for both investors going public, explaining its role in, market capitalization, and investor attraction.

When it comes to Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), investors often encounter various terms and metrics that influence their investment decisions. One such important metric is “Free Float.” In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore what free float means in the context of an IPO, why it matters to investors, and how it impacts a company’s stock performance.

Definition of Free Float

Free Float, also known as public float, refers to the portion of a company’s total outstanding shares that is available for trading in the open market. It excludes shares held by insiders, such as company executives, founders, and large institutional investors who have significant ownership stakes. In essence, free float represents the shares that are readily accessible to the general investing public.

Significance of Free Float in IPOs

Understanding the concept of free float is essential for both investors and companies going public. Here’s why free float is a significant metric in the IPO landscape:

Liquidity Measurement: Free float determines the level of liquidity in a company’s stock. Stocks with a higher free float tend to have more active trading, leading to narrower bid-ask spreads and increased liquidity.

Market Capitalization Calculation: Free float plays a pivotal role in calculating a company’s market capitalization. Market cap is calculated by multiplying the stock’s current price by the total number of outstanding shares. A higher free float can lead to a more accurate market cap calculation.

Investor Attraction: Companies with a sizable free float often attract a broader range of investors, including institutional investors, mutual funds, and retail investors. This broader investor base can contribute to price stability and a more diverse shareholder profile.

Inclusion in Indices: Many stock market indices, like the S&P 500 or FTSE 100, use free float as a criterion for including a stock in the index. A stock with a sufficient free float is more likely to be included in these benchmark indices, which can drive additional demand from index-tracking funds.

Calculating Free Float

Calculating free float involves subtracting the shares held by insiders and other restricted shares from the total outstanding shares. The formula for free float calculation is as follows:

Free Float

Total Outstanding Shares − Insider Holdings − Restricted Shares Free Float=Total Outstanding Shares−Insider Holdings−Restricted Shares Where:

Total Outstanding Shares: The total number of shares issued by the company.

Insider Holdings: Shares held by company insiders, including founders, executives, and major institutional investors.

Restricted Shares: Shares that are not available for trading in the open market for a specified period, often due to lock-up agreements or other restrictions.

Free Float in IPO Decision-Making

For companies planning an IPO, determining the appropriate free float is a strategic decision. Here are some considerations:

Market Demand: Companies assess market demand and investor appetite to determine the size of the IPO and the proportion of shares they intend to release as free float.

Liquidity vs. Control: A higher free float increases liquidity but may also dilute the control of existing shareholders, including company founders and insiders.

Pricing: The availability of a significant free float can affect the pricing strategy for the IPO. A larger free float may influence pricing to attract a broader range of investors.

Investor’s Perspective

From an investor’s perspective, free float is a crucial metric to consider when evaluating an IPO:

Liquidity: A higher free float typically means better liquidity, making it easier to buy and sell shares in the secondary market.

Price Volatility: Stocks with a smaller free float may experience greater price volatility due to lower trading volumes.

Index Inclusion: Investors interested in index-tracking funds should check if the stock qualifies for inclusion based on its free float.


Free float is a pivotal metric in the world of IPOs, impacting liquidity, market capitalization, and investor attractiveness. Understanding the concept of free float empowers investors to make informed decisions when participating in an IPO and navigating the complexities of the stock market. As an essential factor in a company’s public offering, free float shapes how stocks are traded, priced, and included in market indices, ultimately influencing their performance in the market. For both companies and investors, free float serves as a critical element in the IPO journey, offering opportunities for growth, liquidity, and investment diversification.