What Is the Most Expensive Stock on Earth?

Wealthy Investors Can Afford These Stocks

Margin Debt for Stock Investments
••• Nicolas McComber / Vetta / Getty Images

Savvy stock market investors kick myriad tires when examining a stock. They look at market capitalization, income, profits, quality of leadership, and dividend rate,. But ultimately, the true measure of a publicly-traded security is its stock price.

The Most Expensive Stock

Currently, the priciest stock trading in global markets is Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (NYSE:BRK), helmed by one of Wall Street’s most-respected stock pickers, Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway’s Class-A shares are selling for $310,850 per share, as of May 2019. (Berkshire Hathaway’s Class-B shares sell for much less, about $205 per share.)

The difference between BRK-A shares and BRK-B shares is fairly straightforward, and directly impacts the share price. Class A shares are geared toward deep-pocketed investors who, like Buffett, value long-term portfolio gains, rather than short-term price swings, and are willing to pay a higher share price to get it. Class B share investors provides more flexibility, along with more robust tax benefits.

On a year-to-date basis, BRK-A has risen from approximately $300,000 per share in mid-January 2019, to $310,850 in May 2019. Its consensus one-year price target of $361,067 is a bit higher than its current price of $310,850 per-share. Buffett has structured Berkshire Hathaway as a holding company for multiple companies it owns, including BNSF, Precision Castparts, Lubrizol, MidAmerican Energy, and GEICO.

Berkshire Hathaway's share price growth is impressive. For example, if an investor had put $10,000 in BRK—about 808 shares based on the $12 stock price at the time—in 1964, that investor would have gained a whopping $208 million through mid-2017. Or, in other terms, the stock price would have risen 1,972,595 percent from 1964 to the end of 2016. That's a tough act to follow, although other high-priced stocks also have impressive stories. 

For example, Berkshire Hathaway is followed on the “most expensive stock list” by Lindt & Spruengli AG (LISN.SW), a Swiss multinational chocolatier and confectionery company. As of May 2019, the company is trading at $6,530 per share, with a market cap of $17.3 billion. Tracking behind Lindt & Spruengli is Seaboard Corporation (SEB), a multinational Fortune 500 company that deals in the agribusiness sector and transportation. Headquartered in Kansas, SEB is trading at $4,218, with a market cap of $4.92 billion.

Market Capitalization: A Better Measure of Value

While its share price cements Berkshire Hathaway’s status as the most expensive individual stock trading these days, it’s not the largest by market capitalization, which is the value of a publicly-traded company—calculated by multiplying the total number of shares by the present share price. That honor goes to Apple (AAPL), at $901.6 billion. Google isn’t too far behind, with a market cap of $803.2 billion.

Experts say that valuing a publicly-traded company by market cap may be a more effective method of estimating a company’s market value than by its stock price.

Market capitalization is generally a more accurate metric than share price, based on simple math and its ability to measure a company’s value and size against other companies.

By and large, market capitalization calibrates what a publicly-traded company is valued at on global financial markets in addition to the stock market’s outlook on a given company’s future prospects, and what amount of money investors are willing to pay for shares of its stock.

Market capitalization can also be deployed to establish rational expectations over a given stock, and also aid in formulating a solid portfolio investment strategy. While there is no technical threshold for various categories of companies, as measured by market cap, there are some approximate guidelines for investors to follow:

  • Large caps are usually companies with market caps over $10 billion.
  • Mid-cap companies typically range from $2 billion to $10 billion.
  • Small cap companies usually clock in at under $2 billion in market capitalization.

Each category offers its own risks and rewards. Large-cap companies, for example, offer low, but steady share price growth, often with decent dividend payments. Small cap companies, conversely, offer investors more room for growth, albeit at higher risk. They also usually don't pay dividends.

The market cap metric favors companies such as Apple and Google. But if share price is the true measure, Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway remain the leaders.