Foolish analyst Andrew Tonner answers the question: What is earnings per share?

Earnings per share is net income divided by the total number of shares outstanding. Plainly put, it's the amount of money an investor earns for each share of a company's stock he or she owns.

Andrew points out that this figure can change drastically based on how much net income changes from period to period, but it can also change by the number of shares a company has outstanding. Shares outstanding can grow if a company issues more shares or decrease if they buy some back.

For context, Google's earnings per share in the most recent period were $34.21, more than twice what it was just a few years ago.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.