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What is a Reverse Stock Split?

The financial domain is not short of complex terminologies and operations. One such term often used in the realm of corporate actions is the 'reverse stock split.' Also known as stock consolidation, stock merge, or share rollback, a reverse stock split refers to a decision by a company to consolidate its existing shares of stock into a smaller number of proportionally higher-priced shares. This financial maneuver is the direct opposite of a conventional stock split, which involves a share being divided into multiple lesser-valued parts.

In an operational context, a reverse stock split takes the existing total quantity of shares and divides it by a selected number. This could be five or ten, resulting in a 1-for-5 or 1-for-10 reverse split, respectively. The aim here is not to alter the overall value of the company, but rather to increase the per-share price, thus leading to proportionally more valuable shares. The ratio associated with a reverse stock split can range from 1-for-2 to as high as 1-for-100, depending on the objectives and circumstances of the company.

In contrast, a typical stock split amplifies the number of shares an investor owns without changing the total value of their stake in the company. This action is usually designed to enhance liquidity and potentially narrow the bid/ask spread, resulting in more accessible and attractive trading. Conversely, a reverse stock split reduces the number of shares in circulation by merging the existing shares at a certain ratio. For example, a 2-for-1 ratio would mean that what were once two separate shares are now amalgamated into a single share.

While reverse stock splits don't directly impact a company's intrinsic value, they often bear the connotation of a company in distress, as they usually occur following significant value depreciation of a company's stock. This tactic is used to boost the stock's market price, keeping it relevant and avoiding delisting from stock exchanges, which often have a minimum share price requirement (such as $5 per share). However, the renewal of the stock's price may be short-lived as it could be subject to renewed selling pressure due to the negative implications associated with such a move.

Furthermore, a reverse stock split can lead to a decrease in the number of shareholders. Shareholders who don't hold enough of the old shares to own one of the new larger shares after the reverse split are typically compensated with a cash settlement. This reduction in shareholders could potentially shift the company into a different regulatory category with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), possibly reducing the company's reporting requirements.

While reverse stock splits may provide temporary relief for companies with sagging share prices, they are generally viewed as an indicator of distress rather than a sign of robust financial health. In contrast to normal stock splits that can improve liquidity and accessibility, reverse stock splits essentially consolidate shares, driving up per-share price, often as a measure to stave off delisting. Understanding this corporate action is crucial for shareholders and prospective investors in assessing a company's financial standing and strategic direction.


A reverse stock split consolidates stocks at a certain ratio and reduces the number of shares outstanding while increasing the value of each share, as opposed to a regular stock split, which divides existing stocks into more shares which are worth less apiece.

A normal stock split, which increases the number of shares an investor owns without increasing the total value of his or her interest in the company, has the benefit of increasing liquidity with the shares and possibly narrowing the bid/ask spread. A reverse stock split reduces the number of shares in circulation by effectively combining the existing shares at a certain ratio (such as, 2 shares now equals 1 share).

A reverse split tends to suggest that a stock price has declined, as one reason to merge shares is to satisfy an exchange’s minimum stock price (such as $5 per share), so reverse splits have a negative connotation. A shareholder who does not hold enough of the old shares to own one of the new larger shares will receive a cash settlement instead.

This can reduce the number of shareholders and possibly help a company fit into a different regulatory category with the SEC and possibly reduce the company’s reporting requirements. It is also called a stock merge.

What is a Buyback?
What is an Accelerated Share Repurchase?

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