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What is a Run Rate?

What is a Run Rate?

The financial world is brimming with terms and concepts that can often be challenging to comprehend. One such term is the 'run rate.' By understanding its significance, stakeholders can gain valuable insights into a company's future performance.

What is a Run Rate?

Run rate is a financial concept used to forecast a company's financial performance based on its current data. It's a form of extrapolation that extends current performance over a longer period, offering a picture of what future results could look like, assuming current conditions remain unchanged.

For instance, if a company reports a revenue of $100 million in a quarter, we can infer that it's operating at a $400 million run rate. This process of creating a yearly projection based on existing data is known as 'annualizing.'

Run Rate: Estimation or Dilution?

Interestingly, the term 'run rate' can be applied in two different financial contexts. One pertains to extrapolating current metrics to forecast future performance, often for a financial year. The other involves equity options and how they impact a company's share price.

In the first context, the run rate is often used as a quick estimation method, allowing businesses to observe the potential impact of current performance trends extrapolated over the rest of the year. However, this estimation technique is not always reliable, as it operates on the assumption that the present conditions will remain unchanged.

On the other hand, run rate can also refer to the average annual dilution from company stock option grants over the most recent three-year period. This measurement helps gauge the effect of convertible securities on a company's share price.

The Two Sides of Run Rate

When used as a performance estimation tool, run rate helps businesses identify potential annual results based on current data. It can be a powerful motivator or deterrent for employees, illustrating the potential success or failure if current trends persist throughout the year. However, it's crucial to remember that this method isn't always reliable. It might sometimes be used as a misleading statistic in company valuations or press releases.

Conversely, when applied in the context of equity options, the run rate represents the percentage or ratio of options offered each year relative to the total number of outstanding company shares. When options are held by employees or the public, it's usually referred to as the 'overhang.' In this context, the run rate demonstrates how quickly the overhang is increasing each year relative to the total shares of company stock.

Additionally, when companies make a stock offering, they typically reserve a portion of these shares as treasury stock. The run rate in this scenario indicates how rapidly the treasury stock is depleting.

Understanding the run rate and its applications can be pivotal for stakeholders interested in a company's financial trajectory. However, it's important to interpret the run rate with caution due to its inherent assumptions and potential for misinterpretation. Used wisely, it can be a valuable tool to analyze a company's current and future financial standing.


Run rate is a term that can be applied to a certain type of accounting and management estimation or to the depletion of equity options.

The first kind is when a current metric (such as sales revenue for a quarter) is assumed to extend out to the end of the year or accounting period for estimation or valuation purposes. The second kind uses the average dilution from the past three years, generally, to show the effect that convertible securities are having on the share price of a company.

Run rate is an estimation of a future annual outlay or annual performance based on the most current numbers, but the term can also be used in the context of employee stock options and similar forms of equity incentives.

When it refers to an estimation of performance for the rest of the year, it means that a company is taking the numbers from a current month or quarter and seeing what the annual results would look like if those numbers stayed consistent for the remainder of the year.

This is usually not a very reliable estimation. Companies use it as a quick method of showing the impact of current success or failure if it kept up for the rest of the year, to encourage or discourage employees. It is also sometimes used as a misleading statistic for valuations or press releases.

If a cash flow is negative it might be called a burn rate, as used in the context of startup companies. The other kind of run rate refers to the use of company stock options, warrants, or grants in recent years, usually represented as the percentage or ratio of options that are offered each year relative to the total number of outstanding company shares.

When the options are held by employees or the public it is generally referred to as the overhang. Run rate in this context is the amount that overhang has increased each year in recent years in relation to the total shares of company stock that exist.

When companies make a stock offering, there are only so many shares that are created, and companies normally hold some of these in reserve as treasury stock. Run rate shows how quickly the treasury stock is being depleted.

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