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The Trade Desk Stock Split Is Imminent; Here's What Investors Need to Know

By Danny Vena - Jun 16, 2021 at 4:10PM

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This marks the first time the programmatic advertiser has split its shares.

Shares of The Trade Desk (TTD -4.84%) are about to get a whole heck of a lot cheaper, but it isn't because the company is in any sort of trouble. In conjunction with its first-quarter financial results, the programmatic advertising specialist announced an upcoming stock split. In a press release announcing the move, management said that the "goal of the split is to make The Trade Desk stock more accessible to our employees and a broader base of investors." 

There's certainly a lot of merit to that reasoning. Since The Trade Desk debuted on Sept. 21, 2016, at $28.75 a share, the stock has been on fire, climbing to roughly $592 as of this writing, gaining a massive 1,959%. Considering the high sticker price, the stock split will put shares within the reach of more individual investors who have less money to invest.

The devil is in the details. Let's take a look at exactly what investors should expect, and whether or not this represents a buying opportunity.

An older person looking at stock charts on their computer monitor.

Image source: Getty Images.

Those pesky details

On May 10, The Trade Desk said it would initiate a 10-for-1 split of its common stock in the form of a stock dividend . Shareholders of record as of June 9 will receive an additional nine shares of stock for every share owned on the record date. The new shares will be distributed after the market close on June 16. The stock will start trading on a split-adjusted basis when the market opens on June 17. 

Existing shareholders don't have to take any action to receive the additional shares. The stock will be deposited directly into their brokerage accounts once the split takes effect. It's important to remember that the new shares won't necessarily appear immediately after the market closes on June 16. The process for updating accounts varies from brokerage to brokerage, so it can take as long as several days for the new shares to make their appearance in investor accounts.

To give some context to the numbers, here's an example of what it could look like. For each share of The Trade Desk stock that an investor holds -- currently worth roughly $592 -- post-split, shareholders would own a total of 10 shares priced at $59.20 each.

Does this stock split make The Trade Desk a buy?

Eagle-eyed investors will note that the total value of their investment will not change since one share priced at $592 is worth the same as 10 shares priced at $59.20 each. A good analogy is buying a pizza and cutting it into slices. Whether you have one uncut pie, or the same pie sliced into 10 pieces, you still have the same amount of pizza. Similarly, The Trade Desk stockholders will simply have a larger number of lower-priced shares.

Since the company announced the pending stock split, shareholders have cheered the news. In the five weeks since the announcement, the stock has climbed 20%, compared to a 1% gain for the S&P 500. It's important to note, however, that there were likely other factors at play. In fact, The Trade Desk had fallen as much as 45% since mid-February, as some investors seemed to focus solely on stocks they believed would benefit from the recovery, rotating away from high-growth tech stocks. The run-up since the split announcement was at least partly a result of a rebound.

As such, investors shouldn't buy shares based solely on the stock split. While some would argue that the lower-priced shares will result in a commensurate increase in demand, any uptick would likely be temporary at best.

A closeup of a group of people looking at smartphones.

Image source: Getty Images.

Plenty of reasons to be optimistic

The good news, however, is that there are plenty of reasons to invest in The Trade Desk that are not related to its stock split. This was plainly evident in the company's first-quarter financial report.

Revenue of $220 million grew 37% year over year, an acceleration from its 33% growth in the prior year quarter. At the same time, adjusted earnings per share of $1.41 jumped 57%. The company boasted strong customer retention, which has remained above 95% every quarter going back seven years. 

There are other reasons to be optimistic. This week, The Trade Desk announced it has launched operations in India, which represents a significant growth opportunity. Consumers there spend as much as eight hours a day online, on average. This plays right into the company's ability to place the right digital ad in front of the right consumer at the right time. This also comes just ahead of The Trade Desk's biggest platform revamp ever. 

The trend toward programmatic advertising will only grow from here, and The Trade Desk is the industry leader. As such, investors shouldn't buy shares based on the stock split alone, but rather judge the company on its strong history of financial results and the long and potentially lucrative road ahead.

Danny Vena owns shares of The Trade Desk. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends The Trade Desk. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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