IPO

Selling Stock

An initial public offering, or IPO, is the first sale of stock by a company to the public. A company can raise money by issuing either debt or equity. If the company has never issued equity to the public, its known as an IPO.


Companies fall into two broad categories: private and public.


A privately held company has fewer shareholders and its owners dont have to disclose much information about the company. Anybody can go out and incorporate a company: just put in some money, file the right legal documents and follow the reporting rules of your jurisdiction. Most small businesses are privately held. But large companies can be private too. Did you know that IKEA, Dominos Pizza and Hallmark Cards are all privately held?



 
Watch: Initial Public Offering (IPO)

It usually isnt possible to buy shares in a private company. You can approach the owners about investing, but theyre not obligated to sell you anything. Public companies, on the other hand, have sold at least a portion of themselves to the public and trade on a stock exchange. This is why doing an IPO is also referred to as "going public."



Public companies have thousands of shareholders and are subject to strict rules and regulations. They must have a board of directors and they must report financial information every quarter. In the United States, public companies report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In other countries, public companies are overseen by governing bodies similar to the SEC. From an investors standpoint, the most exciting thing about a public company is that the stock is traded in the open market, like any other commodity. If you have the cash, you can invest. The CEO could hate your guts, but theres nothing he or she could do to stop you from buying stock.

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