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What is a Secondary Offering?

A secondary offering refers to the sale of new or closely held shares of a company that has already conducted an initial public offering (IPO). It involves the sale of existing shares by stockholders, rather than the issuance of new shares by the company.

Types of Secondary Offerings

Secondary offerings can be categorized into two main types: non-dilutive and dilutive offerings.

Non-Dilutive Secondary Offerings

In a non-dilutive secondary offering, existing stockholders, such as founders, early investors, or employees, sell their shares to the general public on the secondary market. The proceeds from the sale go directly to the stockholders who are selling their shares, rather than to the company itself. This type of offering does not create new shares or dilute the ownership stake of existing shareholders.

Dilutive Secondary Offerings

A dilutive secondary offering, also known as a follow-on offering, involves the issuance of new shares by the company itself. These new shares are offered to the public, resulting in an increase in the total number of shares outstanding. Dilutive offerings can be used by companies to raise capital for various purposes, such as funding acquisitions, reducing debt, or financing research and development initiatives. However, dilutive offerings may potentially reduce the ownership percentage and earnings per share of existing shareholders.

Effects of Secondary Offerings

Secondary offerings can have several effects on both the company and the stockholders:

  1. Liquidity and Trading Volume: Secondary offerings, especially those involving a significant number of shares, can increase the liquidity of the stock in the secondary market. This increased liquidity often leads to higher trading volumes as more shares are available for trading.

  2. Price Impact: The announcement of a secondary offering can sometimes lead to a temporary decline in the stock price. This can occur due to the perception of increased supply or dilution of existing shares. However, the price impact may vary depending on the specific circumstances and investor sentiment.

  3. Capital Infusion: In dilutive secondary offerings, the company can raise additional capital to finance its operations or growth initiatives. The proceeds from the sale of new shares can be used for a range of purposes, including expansion, research and development, marketing, or debt reduction.

  4. Ownership Structure: Dilutive secondary offerings can alter the ownership structure of the company by increasing the number of shares outstanding. This may result in a decrease in the ownership percentage of existing shareholders, including founders, early investors, and institutional investors.

Process and Considerations

A secondary offering typically involves the sale of shares by existing stockholders on the secondary market. The company itself does not directly benefit from the proceeds of the sale. The stockholders engaging in a secondary offering can include founders, employees, venture capitalists, or other early investors.

Investors should consider several factors when evaluating a secondary offering, including the reasons behind the offering, the company's financial position, and their own investment objectives. Dilutive offerings may require careful analysis of the potential impact on ownership stakes and earnings per share.

Navigating Secondary Offerings

Secondary offerings play a significant role in the financial markets, providing opportunities for existing stockholders to sell their shares or companies to raise capital. Understanding the distinctions between non-dilutive and dilutive offerings is crucial for investors, as each type carries different implications for ownership structure and stock performance. By evaluating the motivations behind a secondary offering and considering the potential effects on the company and shareholders, investors can make informed decisions and navigate the dynamic landscape of secondary offerings.


A secondary offering is the sale of a large block of previously-issued, privately-held stock, which actually requires registration with the SEC, but does not raise capital for the company which issued the shares originally.

A secondary offering is a non-dilutive sale of existing shares which were previously held by one, or a few, investors. The proceeds of the sale go to the sellers of the shares and not to the company which issued the shares.

When a block of securities big enough is sold in this manner, it does require registration with the SEC. This term is often used mistakenly in the place of a Follow-On offering, which is a new issue of shares from the company which initially issued the stock.

The latter offering is dilutive and requires underwriting and many of the same regulations apply as with an IPO (initial public offering). A secondary offering is made in the secondary market.

While it is not dilutive, such a large block does increase the liquidity of the shares outstanding and will most likely affect trading volume in the stock.

What is Secondary Market?
What does Over-the-Counter (OTC) mean?

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