What is the difference between Alphabet, GOOG and GOOGL stock symbols?
the parent company of Google, Alphabet (GOOG 7.91%) (GOOGL 7.87%), comes in two flavors. There is the class C action with the symbol GOOG, then we have the class A action called GOOGL.
That’s not quite the whole story, actually. There is a third type of Alphabet shares, but Class B shares are not publicly available.
The difference between these Alphabet stock classes is not immediately obvious. According to Google’s search algorithm, people who search for information on GOOGL will often wonder what is the difference between Class A and Class C, and which is better.
So let’s take a look at this stylish riddle.
What is the difference?
Technically speaking, there is only one difference between Alphabet’s three stock classes. It is a matter of voting power.
- Class A stock carries one vote per share in each situation that counts shareholder ballots.
- Class C shares have no voting rights.
- Class B shares consist of so-called monitoring shares. Here, each stub comes with 10 votes.
This structure was designed to protect the stakes of Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Together, the two executives currently own 86% of Class B shares, which translates to a 51.4% share of Alphabet’s total voting rights.
When the company issues new shares under the employee profit-sharing program or acquires another company under a share exchange, the new stubs may belong to the class C type if the influx of new shares with voting rights alters this balance of power. In this way, Brin and Page continue to exercise absolute control over Alphabet’s voting matters. It would take a shareholder vote to change this policy, and this idea is unlikely to win a majority vote unless at least one of Google’s founding fathers votes in favor of it.
So class B shares are not traded on the public market and there is no effective difference between class A and class C. Yes class A comes with voting rights but as I l I mentioned, Brin and Page basically run the show as they see fit. .
OK, but is one category a better investment than another?
The company then known as Google introduced Class C non-voting shares on April 3, 2014. This stock split was done as a special dividend, giving shareholders a brand new Class C share to every Class A or Class B stub they already owned. . Class C shares have been retained under the old GOOG ticker and Class A has moved to the new GOOGL ticker. The company counted its shares two weeks later, preparing its official documents for the first quarter of 2014, and the number of class A and class B voting stubs almost exactly matched the number of class C shares without right to vote.
Things have changed a bit over the past eight years. Alphabet increased the number of A shares by 6.5%, according to this week’s second quarter report. During this time, 20.4% of Class B shares were converted to other classes, and the number of Class C shares decreased by 8.2%. Of course, these numbers take into account the recent 20-to-1 stock split. Again, Brin and Page hold a 51.4% majority in this scenario. That’s down from 61.3% at the start of 2014, but it’s still a comfortably majority stake.
You can expect different classes of shares to offer significantly different market returns, since class A stock has been diluted over time while class C has moved in the opposite direction. However, the company attributes its earnings per share and other financial results using a method that keeps each share’s financial interests equal in every report. So there is no tax reason to value one stock above or below the other. Voting powers don’t make a difference in the real world either.
As a result, the shares have posted almost identical shareholder returns since the split. Here’s how the two market-beating charts have formed since April 2014:
There really is no difference?
You could consider other measures, of course. Company insiders and financial institutions hold more Class A Voting Shares than Class C Non-Voting Shares. Voting shares also experience slightly higher trading volumes on average. And when short sellers bet against Alphabet, their pre-sold shares are more often borrowed from the voting side of the close.
None of this matters in a game-changing way. Where one class of Alphabet stock goes, the other will follow. Personally, I sold my class C non-voting shares in 2014 and replaced them with more of the voting shares, for the simple reason that I believe in acting as if I owned a small part of today’s society.
My votes won’t change the outcome of elections or polls, of course, so even this idea is just an academic exercise. And I’m happy to exercise my tiny voting power whenever I get the chance. If nothing else, it’s a reminder of corporate ownership that accompanies the purchase of a stock.
But it’s my choice, and you may feel this little distinction differently. You should feel free to invest in GOOG or GOOGL stocks, or both if you prefer. There are no trading fees to worry about these days, so any combination is accepted. If you enjoy reading proxy filings and voting at annual shareholder meetings, you should buy Class A shares of Alphabet under the ticker symbol GOOGL. And if you’d rather keep your inbox free of voting-related emails, you can select the C-class stock with the GOOG ticker instead.
It doesn’t matter which side you lean on. Whichever stock symbol you prefer, Alphabet remains a fantastic long-term investment in the digital future of the global economy.
Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a board member of The Motley Fool. Anders Bylund holds positions in Alphabet (A shares). The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Alphabet (A and C shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.