Public Company

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What is a 'Public Company'

A public company is a company that has issued securities through an initial public offering (IPO) and is traded on at least one stock exchange or in the over the counter market. Although a small percentage of shares may be initially "floated" to the public, the act of becoming a public company allows the market to determine the value of the entire company through daily trading.

Public companies have inherent advantages over private companies, including the ability to sell future equity stakes and increased access to the debt markets. With these advantages, however, comes increased regulatory scrutiny and less control for majority owners and company founders.

BREAKING DOWN 'Public Company'

Once a company goes public, it has to answer to its shareholders. For example, certain corporate structure changes and amendments must be brought up for shareholder vote. Shareholders can also vote with their dollars by bidding up the company to a premium valuation or selling it to a level below its intrinsic value.

Public companies must meet stringent reporting requirements set out by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including the public disclosure of financial statements and annual 10-k reports discussing the state of the company. Each stock exchange also has specific financial and reporting guidelines that govern whether a stock is allowed to be listed for trading.

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