After a century of service providing quotes on stocks and bonds to investors around the world, the OTC markets have come of age, and the recently published Annual Markets Review (http://nnw.fm/kIE5n) from OTC Markets Group, Inc. (OTCQX: OTCM) reveals that maturity. The company’s over-the-counter (OTC) platforms now host some 9,620 U.S. and global securities that generate an annual trading dollar volume of around $193 billion. Its OTCQX Best Market and OTCQB Venture Market provide price and liquidity information on some of the world’s best companies, and over 100 broker-dealers play an active part as market-makers. For companies, both big and small, being quoted on the OTC markets makes being public decidedly less painful.
The current tiered market structure makes it easier for companies to demonstrate their financial and corporate governance standards and to provide current information, avoiding the trading hurdles due to the opacity associated with the old pink sheets. The almost 10,000 securities included in the OTC Markets quotation system are organized into three markets, OTCQX, OTCQB, and Pink, to better inform investors.
The OTCQX Best Market is the premier quotation platform. To be quoted on the OTCQX market, a company must meet high financial standards, follow best practice corporate governance, demonstrate compliance with U.S. securities laws, and have a professional third-party sponsor introduction. Penny stocks, shell companies and companies in bankruptcy cannot qualify for OTCQX. The companies whose securities appear on the OTCQX are distinguished by the integrity of their operations and the diligence with which they convey their qualifications. The OTCQX Best Market, which welcomed some 50 new companies in 2016, offers transparent and efficient trading… without the cost and complexity of a U.S. exchange listing.
The OTCQB Venture Market is meant for early-stage and developing U.S. and international companies that are not yet able to qualify for OTCQX. To be eligible, a company must be current in its reporting and undergo an annual verification and management certification process. It must, also, meet a $0.01 bid test and may not be in bankruptcy. In 2016, 230 new companies joined the platform.
The Pink Open Market approximates most closely to the traditional pink sheets, although a particular market tier classification is not an indication of either the value of the security or an endorsement (or not) of the issuer. Market tiers are based only on the quality and timeliness of the information provided. OTCQB Venture Market and Pink Open Market quotes may be of securities for companies of high quality, as well as of those for speculative, distressed, or questionable companies.
Since May 16, 2013, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has considered the OTCQB and OTCQX marketplaces to be public marketplaces for purposes of establishing a public market price when registering securities for resale in equity line financings.
During 2016, the OTC Markets Group platforms passed some memorable milestones. Some 280 new companies made their debut on the OTCQX and OTCQB markets. In particular, the OTCQX shone under the spotlight: the OTCQX Best 50 companies (http://nnw.fm/ckU9u) delivered an average total return of 130 percent compared to the S&P 500, which went up by 9.5 percent in 2016.
Twenty U.S. states now recognize the OTC markets for the purposes of their Blue Sky Manual Exemptions. Blue Sky laws are U.S. state securities laws designed to protect the public from securities fraud. The aim is to achieve Blue Sky recognition from all 50 states. In addition, seven share transfer agents participate in a new program that makes current verified information available to the public.
Client companies are voicing their approval of the measures to improve the OTC markets. As global information services giant Experian plc explained:
“…OTCQX offered a liquid trading platform for our ADRs, enabling US investors to invest directly in Experian stock via a US traded instrument, but it did not require us to list on a US exchange or register with the SEC. As a result, we continue to comply with the regulation and governance requirements of our primary London listing and are not subject to onerous duplicate regulation and governance requirements by virtue of our ADRs being traded in the US.”
It looks like the OTC Markets have definitely come of age by making being public much less painful.
For more information, please visit www.OTCMarkets.com
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