A public company, publicly-traded company, publicly-held company, publicly-listed company, or public limited company is a corporation whose ownership is dispersed among the general public in many shares of stock which are freely traded on a stock exchange or in over-the-counter markets. In some jurisdictions, public companies over a certain size must be listed on an exchange. A public company can be listed (listed company) or unlisted (unlisted public company).
A public limited company is a type of public company under United Kingdom company law, some Commonwealth jurisdictions, and the Republic of Ireland. It is a limited liability company whose shares may be freely sold and traded to the public, with a minimum share capital of £50,000 and usually with the letters PLC after its name. Similar companies in the United States are called publicly traded companies. Public limited companies will also have a separate legal identity.
A corporation is an organization, usually a group of people or a company, authorized to act as a single entity and recognized as such in law. Early incorporated entities were established by charter. Most jurisdictions now allow the creation of new corporations through registration.
The stock of a corporation is all of the shares into which ownership of the corporation is divided. In American English, the shares are commonly known as "stocks". A single share of the stock represents fractional ownership of the corporation in proportion to the total number of shares. This typically entitles the stockholder to that fraction of the company's earnings, proceeds from liquidation of assets, or voting power, often dividing these up in proportion to the amount of money each stockholder has invested. Not all stock is necessarily equal, as certain classes of stock may be issued for example without voting rights, with enhanced voting rights, or with a certain priority to receive profits or liquidation proceeds before or after other classes of shareholders.
Public companies are formed within the legal systems of particular states, and therefore have associations and formal designations which are distinct and separate in the polity in which they reside. For example one of the main public company forms in the United States is called a limited liability company (or LLC), in France is called a "society of limited responsibility" (SARL), in Britain a public limited company (plc), and in Germany a company with limited liability (GmbH). While the general idea of a public company may be similar, differences are meaningful, and are at the core of international law disputes with regard to industry and trade.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
A limited liability company (LLC) is the US-specific form of a private limited company. It is a business structure that can combine the pass-through taxation of a partnership or sole proprietorship with the limited liability of a corporation. An LLC is not a corporation under state law; it is a legal form of a company that provides limited liability to its owners in many jurisdictions. LLCs are well known for the flexibility that they provide to business owners; depending on the situation, an LLC may elect to use corporate tax rules instead of being treated as a partnership, and, under certain circumstances, LLCs may be organized as not-for-profit. In certain U.S. states, businesses that provide professional services requiring a state professional license, such as legal or medical services, may not be allowed to form an LLC but may be required to form a similar entity called a professional limited liability company (PLLC).
International law, also known as public international law or law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally regarded and accepted in relations between nations. It establishes normative guidelines and a common conceptual framework for states to follow across a broad range of domains, including war, diplomacy, human rights, commerce, and environmental preservation. International law thus provides a mean for states to practice more stable, consistent, and organized international relations.
In the early modern period, the Dutch developed several financial instruments and helped lay the foundations of modern financial system.The Dutch East India Company (VOC) became the first company in history to issue bonds and shares of stock to the general public. In other words, the VOC was officially the first publicly traded company, because it was the first company to be ever actually listed on an official stock exchange. While the Italian city-states produced the first transferable government bonds, they did not develop the other ingredient necessary to produce a fully fledged capital market: corporate shareholders. As Edward Stringham (2015) notes, "companies with transferable shares date back to classical Rome, but these were usually not enduring endeavors and no considerable secondary market existed (Neal, 1997, p. 61)."
The Dutch East India Company was an early megacorporation founded by a government-directed amalgamation of several rival Dutch trading companies (voorcompagnieën) in the early 17th century. It was established on March 20, 1602 as a chartered company to trade with India and Indianised Southeast Asian countries when the Dutch government granted it a 21-year monopoly on the Dutch spice trade. It has been often labelled a trading company or sometimes a shipping company. However, VOC was in fact a proto-conglomerate company, diversifying into multiple commercial and industrial activities such as international trade, shipbuilding, and both production and trade of East Indian spices, Formosan sugarcane, and South African wine.. The Company was a transcontinental employer and an early pioneer of outward foreign direct investment. The Company's investment projects helped raise the commercial and industrial potential of many underdeveloped or undeveloped regions of the world in the early modern period. In the early 1600s, by widely issuing bonds and shares of stock to the general public, VOC became the world's first formally-listed public company. In other words, it was the first corporation to be listed on an official stock exchange. It was influential in the rise of corporate-led globalisation in the early modern period.
In finance, a bond is an instrument of indebtedness of the bond issuer to the holders. The most common types of bonds include municipal bonds and corporate bonds.
In financial markets, a share is a unit used as mutual funds, limited partnerships, and real estate investment trusts. The owner of shares in the corporation/company is a shareholder of the corporation. A share is an indivisible unit of capital, expressing the ownership relationship between the company and the shareholder. The denominated value of a share is its face value, and the total of the face value of issued shares represent the capital of a company, which may not reflect the market value of those shares.
Usually, the securities of a publicly traded company are owned by many investors while the shares of a privately held company are owned by relatively few shareholders. A company with many shareholders is not necessarily a publicly traded company. In the United States, in some instances, companies with over 500 shareholders may be required to report under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934; companies that report under the 1934 Act are generally deemed public companies.
A privately held company, private company, or close corporation is a business company owned either by non-governmental organizations or by a relatively small number of shareholders or company members which does not offer or trade its company stock (shares) to the general public on the stock market exchanges, but rather the company's stock is offered, owned and traded or exchanged privately or over-the-counter. More ambiguous terms for a privately held company are closely held corporation, unquoted company, and unlisted company.
The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 is a law governing the secondary trading of securities in the United States of America. A landmark of wide-ranging legislation, the Act of '34 and related statutes form the basis of regulation of the financial markets and their participants in the United States. The 1934 Act also established the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the agency primarily responsible for enforcement of United States federal securities law.
Public companies possess some advantages over privately held businesses.
Financial capital is any economic resource measured in terms of money used by entrepreneurs and businesses to buy what they need to make their products or to provide their services to the sector of the economy upon which their operation is based, i.e. retail, corporate, investment banking, etc.
A dividend is a payment made by a corporation to its shareholders, usually as a distribution of profits. When a corporation earns a profit or surplus, the corporation is able to re-invest the profit in the business and pay a proportion of the profit as a dividend to shareholders. Distribution to shareholders may be in cash or, if the corporation has a dividend reinvestment plan, the amount can be paid by the issue of further shares or share repurchase. When dividends are paid, shareholders typically must pay income taxes, and the corporation does not receive a corporate income tax deduction for the dividend payments.
A capital gain refers to profit that results from a sale of a capital asset, such as stock, bond or real estate, where the sale price exceeds the purchase price. The gain is the difference between a higher selling price and a lower purchase price. Conversely, a capital loss arises if the proceeds from the sale of a capital asset are less than the purchase price.
Many stock exchanges require that publicly traded companies have their accounts regularly audited by outside auditors, and then publish the accounts to their shareholders. Besides the cost, this may make useful information available to competitors. Various other annual and quarterly reports are also required by law. In the United States, the Sarbanes–Oxley Act imposes additional requirements. The requirement for audited books is not imposed by the exchange known as OTC Pink.The shares may be maliciously held by outside shareholders and the original founders or owners may lose benefits and control. The principal-agent problem, or the agency problem is a key weakness of public companies. The separation of a company's ownership and control is especially prevalent in such countries as U.K and U.S.
A financial audit is conducted to provide an opinion whether "financial statements" are stated in accordance with specified criteria. Normally, the criteria are international accounting standards, although auditors may conduct audits of financial statements prepared using the cash basis or some other basis of accounting appropriate for the organisation. In providing an opinion whether financial statements are fairly stated in accordance with accounting standards, the auditor gathers evidence to determine whether the statements contain material errors or other misstatements.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, also known as the "Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act" and "Corporate and Auditing Accountability, Responsibility, and Transparency Act" and more commonly called Sarbanes–Oxley, Sarbox or SOX, is a United States federal law that set new or expanded requirements for all U.S. public company boards, management and public accounting firms. A number of provisions of the Act also apply to privately held companies, such as the willful destruction of evidence to impede a federal investigation.
In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission requires that firms whose stock is traded publicly report their major shareholders each year.The reports identify all institutional shareholders (primarily, firms owning stock in other companies), all company officials who own shares in their firm, and any individual or institution owning more than 5% of the firm's stock.
For many years, newly created companies were privately held but held initial public offering to become publicly traded company or to be acquired by another company if they became larger and more profitable or had promising prospects. More infrequently, some companies — such as investment banking firm Goldman Sachs and logistics services provider United Parcel Service (UPS) — chose to remain privately held for a long period of time after maturity into a profitable company.
However, from 1997 to 2012, the number of corporations publicly traded on American stock exchanges dropped 45%.According to one observer (Gerald F. Davis), "public corporations have become less concentrated, less integrated, less interconnected at the top, shorter lived, less remunerative for average investors, and less prevalent since the turn of the 21st century". Davis argues that technological changes such as the decline in price and increasing power, quality and flexibility of computer Numerical control machines and newer digitally enabled tools such as 3D printing will lead to smaller and more local organization of production.
A group of private investors or another company that is privately held can buy out the shareholders of a public company, taking the company private. This is typically done through a leveraged buyout and occurs when the buyers believe the securities have been undervalued by investors. In some cases, public companies that are in severe financial distress may also approach a private company or companies to take over ownership and management of the company. One way of doing this would be to make a rights issue designed to enable the new investor to acquire a supermajority. With a super-majority, the company could then be relisted, i.e. privatized.
Alternatively, a publicly traded company may be purchased by one or more other publicly traded companies, with the target company becoming either a subsidiary or joint venture of the purchaser(s), or ceasing to exist as a separate entity, its former shareholders receiving compensation in the form of either cash, shares in the purchasing company or a combination of both. When the compensation is primarily shares then the deal is often considered a merger. Subsidiaries and joint ventures can also be created de novo — this often happens in the financial sector. Subsidiaries and joint ventures of publicly traded companies are not generally considered to be privately held companies (even though they themselves are not publicly traded) and are generally subject to the same reporting requirements as publicly traded companies. Finally, shares in subsidiaries and joint ventures can be (re)-offered to the public at any time — firms that are sold in this manner are called spin-outs.
Most industrialized jurisdictions have enacted laws and regulations that detail the steps that prospective owners (public or private) must undertake if they wish to take over a publicly traded corporation. This often entails the would-be buyer(s) making a formal offer for each share of the company to shareholders.
The shares of a publicly traded company are often traded on a stock exchange. The value or "size" of a company is called its market capitalization, a term which is often shortened to "market cap". This is calculated as the number of shares outstanding (as opposed to authorized but not necessarily issued) times the price per share. For example, a company with two million shares outstanding and a price per share of US$40 has a market capitalization of US$80 million. However, a company's market capitalization should not be confused with the fair market value of the company as a whole since the price per share are influenced by other factors such as the volume of shares traded. Low trading volume can cause artificially low prices for securities, due to investors being apprehensive of investing in a company they perceive as possibly lacking liquidity.
For example, if all shareholders were to simultaneously try to sell their shares in the open market, this would immediately create downward pressure on the price for which the share is traded unless there were an equal number of buyers willing to purchase the security at the price the sellers demand. So, sellers would have to either reduce their price or choose not to sell. Thus, the number of trades in a given period of time, commonly referred to as the "volume" is important when determining how well a company's market capitalization reflects true fair market value of the company as a whole. The higher the volume, the more the fair market value of the company is likely to be reflected by its market capitalization.
Another example of the impact of volume on the accuracy of market capitalization is when a company has little or no trading activity and the market price is simply the price at which the most recent trade took place, which could be days or weeks ago. This occurs when there are no buyers willing to purchase the securities at the price being offered by the sellers and there are no sellers willing to sell at the price the buyers are willing to pay. While this is rare when the company is traded on a major stock exchange, it is not uncommon when shares are traded over-the-counter (OTC). Since individual buyers and sellers need to incorporate news about the company into their purchasing decisions, a security with an imbalance of buyers or sellers may not feel the full effect of recent news.
A stock exchange, securities exchange or bourse, is a facility where stock brokers and traders can buy and sell securities, such as shares of stock and bonds and other financial instruments. Stock exchanges may also provide for facilities the issue and redemption of such securities and instruments and capital events including the payment of income and dividends. Securities traded on a stock exchange include stock issued by listed companies, unit trusts, derivatives, pooled investment products and bonds. Stock exchanges often function as "continuous auction" markets with buyers and sellers consummating transactions via open outcry at a central location such as the floor of the exchange or by using an electronic trading platform.
A stock market, equity market or share market is the aggregation of buyers and sellers of stocks, which represent ownership claims on businesses; these may include securities listed on a public stock exchange, as well as stock that is only traded privately. Examples of the latter include shares of private companies which are sold to investors through equity crowdfunding platforms. Stock exchanges list shares of common equity as well as other security types, e.g. corporate bonds and convertible bonds.
Initial public offering (IPO) or stock market launch is a type of public offering in which shares of a company are sold to institutional investors and usually also retail (individual) investors; an IPO is underwritten by one or more investment banks, who also arrange for the shares to be listed on one or more stock exchanges. Through this process, colloquially known as floating, or going public, a privately held company is transformed into a public company. Initial public offerings can be used: to raise new equity capital for the company concerned; to monetize the investments of private shareholders such as company founders or private equity investors; and to enable easy trading of existing holdings or future capital raising by becoming publicly traded enterprises.
A stock split or stock divide increases the number of shares in a company. The price is adjusted such that the before and after market capitalization of the company remains the same and dilution does not occur. Options and warrants are included.
Penny stocks, also known as micro-cap stocks, nano-cap stocks, small cap stocks and OTC stocks, are common shares of small public companies that trade at low prices per share.
The secondary market, also called the aftermarket and follow on public offering is the financial market in which previously issued financial instruments such as stock, bonds, options, and futures are bought and sold. Another frequent usage of "secondary market" is to refer to loans which are sold by a mortgage bank to investors such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Shares outstanding are all the shares of a corporation or financial asset that have been authorized, issued and purchased by investors and are held by them. They have rights and represent ownership in the corporation by the person who holds the shares. They are distinguished from treasury shares, which are shares held by the corporation itself and have no exercisable rights. Shares outstanding plus treasury shares together amount to the number of issued shares.
The Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE) is a stock exchange that is based in the city of Shanghai, China. It is one of the two stock exchanges operating independently in the People's Republic of China, the other being the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. Shanghai Stock Exchange is the world's 4th largest stock market by market capitalization at US$5.5 trillion as of April 2018. Unlike the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the Shanghai Stock Exchange is still not entirely open to foreign investors and often manipulated by the decisions of the central government. This is due to tight capital account controls exercised by the Chinese mainland authorities.
Securities market is a component of the wider financial market where securities can be bought and sold between subjects of the economy, on the basis of demand and supply. Securities markets encompasses equity markets, bond markets and derivatives markets where prices can be determined and participants both professional and non professionals can meet.
A rights issue or rights offer is a dividend of subscription rights to buy additional securities in a company made to the company's existing security holders. When the rights are for equity securities, such as shares, in a public company, it is a non-dilutive(can be dilutive) pro rata way to raise capital. Rights issues are typically sold via a prospectus or prospectus supplement. With the issued rights, existing security-holders have the privilege to buy a specified number of new securities from the issuer at a specified price within a subscription period. In a public company, a rights issue is a form of public offering.
A reverse takeover or reverse merger takeover is the acquisition of a public company by a private company so that the private company can bypass the lengthy and complex process of going public. The transaction typically requires reorganization of capitalization of the acquiring company. Sometimes, conversely, the private company is bought by the public listed company through an asset swap and share issue.
Business valuation is a process and a set of procedures used to estimate the economic value of an owner's interest in a business. Valuation is used by financial market participants to determine the price they are willing to pay or receive to effect a sale of a business. In addition to estimating the selling price of a business, the same valuation tools are often used by business appraisers to resolve disputes related to estate and gift taxation, divorce litigation, allocate business purchase price among business assets, establish a formula for estimating the value of partners' ownership interest for buy-sell agreements, and many other business and legal purposes such as in shareholders deadlock, divorce litigation and estate contest. In some cases, the court would appoint a forensic accountant as the joint expert doing the business valuation.
Securities fraud, also known as stock fraud and investment fraud, is a deceptive practice in the stock or commodities markets that induces investors to make purchase or sale decisions on the basis of false information, frequently resulting in losses, in violation of securities laws.
Stock dilution, also known as equity dilution, is the decrease in existing shareholders’ ownership of a company as a result of the company issuing new equity. New equity increases the total shares outstanding which has a dilutive effect on the ownership percentage of existing shareholders. This increase in the number of shares outstanding can result from a primary market offering, employees exercising stock options, or by issuance or conversion of convertible bonds, preferred shares or warrants into stock. This dilution can shift fundamental positions of the stock such as ownership percentage, voting control, earnings per share, and the value of individual shares.
The Tehran Stock Exchange (TSE) is Iran's largest stock exchange, which first opened in 1967. The TSE is based in Tehran. As of May 2012, 339 companies with a combined market capitalization of US$104.21 billion were listed on TSE. TSE, which is a founding member of the Federation of Euro-Asian Stock Exchanges, has been one of the world's best performing stock exchanges in the years 2002 through 2013. TSE is an emerging or "frontier" market.
Amman Stock Exchange (ASE) is a stock exchange private institution in Jordan. It is named "Amman" after the country's capital city, Amman.
Share repurchase is the re-acquisition by a company of its own stock. It represents a more flexible way of returning money to shareholders.