On Wednesday, March 6, 2013, NASDAQ surprised the small-cap and investment community when it announced it is acquiring Sharepost’s private company market place (PCMP) exchange and rebranding it. On March 5, 2014, NASDAQ officially launched the NASDAQ Private Market (“NPM”) a new marketplace for private companies. A PCMP is a trading platform, such as SharePost or SecondMarket, that provides a marketplace for illiquid restricted securities, such as private company securities, 144 stock, debt instruments, warrants, and the like or alternative assets. It is on a PCMP that pre-IPO Facebook, Groupon and LinkedIn received their trading start.
For at least the last twelve months, I have received calls daily from companies wanting to go public. This interest in going public transactions signifies a big change from the few years prior.
Beginning in 2009, the small-cap and reverse merger, initial public offering (IPO) and direct public offering (DPO) markets diminished greatly. I can identify at least seven main reasons for the downfall of the going public transactions. Briefly, those reasons are: (1) the general state of the economy, plainly stated, was not good; (2) backlash from a series of fraud allegations, SEC enforcement actions, and trading suspensions of Chinese companies following reverse mergers; (3) the 2008 Rule 144 amendments including the prohibition of use of the rule for shell company and former shell company shareholders; (4) problems clearing penny stock with broker dealers and FINRA’s enforcement of broker-dealer and clearing house due diligence requirements related to penny stocks; (5) DTC scrutiny and difficulty in obtaining clearance following
NASDAQ acquires Sharepost
On Wednesday March 6, 2013, NASDAQ surprised the small cap and investment community when it announced it is acquiring Sharepost’s private company market place (PCMP) exchange and rebranding it the Nasdaq Private Exchange.
In December, 2011, I wrote a few blogs on PCMPs. A PCMP is a trading platform, such as SharePost or SecondMarket that provides a market place for illiquid restricted securities, such as private company securities, 144 stock, debt instruments, warrants, and the like or alternative assets. It is on a PCMP that pre-IPO Facebook, Groupon and LInkedin received their trading start. Following the IPO of these large entities, and in particular Facebook, traffic and use of PCMP sites declines, but NASDAQ clearly believes the decline is temporary, and I agree.
Private Company Market Places
Each PCMP offers a fully automated back office, documentation, escrow, transfer and settlement support. Users open trading accounts, like they would with any other broker dealer. The PCMP provider collects
The SEC has approved the recent NASDAQ rule change to lower the minimum bid listing requirement from $4.00 to either $2.00 or $3.00 depending on qualification for certain other listing requirements. The text of the entire new rule is available on the SEC website.
Pursuant to the new rule, a security would qualify for listing on the NASDAQ Capital Market if, for at least five consecutive business days prior to approval, the security has a minimum closing price of:
A. At least $3 per share, if the issuer meets either of the following standards determined as follows:
I. Under the Equity Standard, the Issuer would need to meet, among other things:
(i) stockholders’ equity of at least $5 million;
(ii) market value of publicly held shares of at least $15 million; and
(iii) two year operating history.
II. Under the Net Income Standard, the Issuer would have to meet, among other things:
(i) net income from continuing operations
As I discussed in a recent blog, the attraction of the small cap and reverse merger market has diminished greatly in the past two years. The Over the Counter market has become an expensive place to conduct business; the antithesis of the very reason small companies sought to list there to begin with. Accessing capital markets for microcap companies is not as simple as it once was.
In addition to the added expensive of complying with the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 disclosure requirements, the marketplace invites speculators who short sell (bet that the price of a stock will go down) and hedge with derivatives, often creating unpredictable volatility and share prices not indicative of the underlying value of the actual business.
No Automatic Liquidity for Issuers
Being public is no guarantee of liquidity either. It’s fantastic for an issuer to state that their stock is being quoted at $5.00 per share, but if there is no volume (the shares
Companies subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (amended to the “Exchange Act”), without current business operations, and trading on the NASDAQ Over the Counter Bulletin Board (“OTCBB”), commonly known as Bulletin Board Shells, have become the vehicle of choice for private companies seeking to go public through a reverse merger.
Although the domestic economy has slowed, reverse mergers still flourish, and Chinese-based companies in particular have taken the lead in reverse mergers with Bulletin Board Shells. As old sectors slow, new sectors such as biofuels, health supplements, and agricultural science have risen to lead the charge into the public arena.
SEC Reporting Requirements Make Due Diligence Practical
Bulletin Board Shells have become the vehicle of choice for private companies seeking public status. This is due in part to increasing industry pressure for public companies to maintain total disclosure of their financial condition and operations.
Bulletin Board Shells and OTCBB Companies must prepare and file