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Is Canadian National Railway Company (TSE:CNR) Popular Amongst Institutions?

·4 min read

A look at the shareholders of Canadian National Railway Company (TSE:CNR) can tell us which group is most powerful. Institutions often own shares in more established companies, while it's not unusual to see insiders own a fair bit of smaller companies. Companies that have been privatized tend to have low insider ownership.

Canadian National Railway has a market capitalization of CA$92b, so it's too big to fly under the radar. We'd expect to see both institutions and retail investors owning a portion of the company. Our analysis of the ownership of the company, below, shows that institutional investors have bought into the company. We can zoom in on the different ownership groups, to learn more about Canadian National Railway.

See our latest analysis for Canadian National Railway

ownership-breakdown
ownership-breakdown

What Does The Institutional Ownership Tell Us About Canadian National Railway?

Many institutions measure their performance against an index that approximates the local market. So they usually pay more attention to companies that are included in major indices.

Canadian National Railway already has institutions on the share registry. Indeed, they own a respectable stake in the company. 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. When multiple institutions own a stock, there's always a risk that they are in a 'crowded trade'. When such a trade goes wrong, multiple parties may compete to sell stock fast. This risk is higher in a company without a history of growth. You can see Canadian National Railway's historic earnings and revenue below, but keep in mind there's always more to the story.

earnings-and-revenue-growth
earnings-and-revenue-growth

Since institutional investors own more than half the issued stock, the board will likely have to pay attention to their preferences. Hedge funds don't have many shares in Canadian National Railway. Looking at our data, we can see that the largest shareholder is Cascade Investment, L.L.C. with 12% of shares outstanding. In comparison, the second and third largest shareholders hold about 4.7% and 3.2% of the stock.

After doing some more digging, we found that the top 21 have the combined ownership of 50% in the company, suggesting that no single shareholder has significant control over the company.

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. There are plenty of analysts covering the stock, so it might be worth seeing what they are forecasting, too.

Insider Ownership Of Canadian National Railway

While the precise definition of an insider can be subjective, almost everyone considers board members to be insiders. Management ultimately answers to the board. However, it is not uncommon for managers to be executive board members, especially if they are a founder or the CEO.

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.

I can report that insiders do own shares in Canadian National Railway Company. Insiders own CA$2.0b worth of shares (at current prices). I sometimes take an interest in whether they have been buying or selling.

General Public Ownership

The general public, with a 27% stake in the company, will not easily be ignored. While this group can't necessarily call the shots, it can certainly have a real influence on how the company is run.

Private Equity Ownership

Private equity firms hold a 12% stake in Canadian National Railway. This suggests they can be influential in key policy decisions. Sometimes we see private equity stick around for the long term, but generally speaking they have a shorter investment horizon and -- as the name suggests -- don't invest in public companies much. After some time they may look to sell and redeploy capital elsewhere.

Next Steps:

While it is well worth considering the different groups that own a company, there are other factors that are even more important. Consider risks, for instance. Every company has them, and we've spotted 1 warning sign for Canadian National Railway you should know about.

But ultimately it is the future, not the past, that will determine how well the owners of this business will do. Therefore we think it advisable to take a look at this free report showing whether analysts are predicting a brighter 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.

This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. 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.

Have feedback on this article? Concerned about the content? Get in touch with us directly. Alternatively, email editorial-team (at) simplywallst.com.