What Are the Rules Behind the Delisting of a Stock?

Delisting is a financial term describing a phenomenon where a listed security is actively removed from the exchange on which it trades. While there are many reasons behind such action, it most frequently occurs when the company for which the stock is issued fails to comply with a given exchange's listing requirements. Most major exchanges exhibit similar delisting rules and compliance processes.

  • Delisting is a term describing the process of a company becoming removed from the exchange it trades on.
  • A company's stock may be delisted as the result of failing to meet the exchange's laundry list of requirements.
  • The listing criteria include maintaining trading price thresholds for certain time frames, minimum revenue standards, market capitalization thresholds, and shareholder percentage requirements.
  • Companies in breach of an exchange's listing mandates are initially sent non-compliance notifications affording them certain windows of time to address these issues before they're ultimately delisted. 

How to Stay Listed

Listing requirements vary from one exchange to the next. For example, on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), if a security's price closed below $1.00 for 30 consecutive trading days, that exchange would initiate the delisting process. Furthermore, the major exchanges also impose requirements related to market capitalization, minimum shareholders' equity, and revenue outputs. From a bookkeeping perspective, public companies must stay current with paying exchanges their annual listing fees due, while dutifully covering the significant legal and compliance costs associated with listing on an exchange.

A delisted company may still trade its stock over two different platforms: the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) or the pink sheets system, although both are significantly less regulated than the major exchanges, causing many investors to shy away from investing in such equities.

What Happens to Non-Compliant Companies

A company that fails to maintain the terms imposed by the exchange on which it lists its stock receives a perfunctory non-compliance notification letter. But a company's stock is not immediately evicted from the exchange at that time. Rather, the letter serves as an invitation for the offending corporation to reply with a description of the actions it plans to take toward addressing the delinquencies in question. If the exchange accepts the terms of the remedial plan, it will monitor the company's financial progress to ensure its milestones are met in a timely manner. But if a company fails to respond within 10 business days of receiving a notification letter, the exchange would swiftly proceed with the delisting process.

Tracking Delisted Companies

Investors may track non-compliant companies by following the lists of delinquent securities regularly published by the exchanges. Wall Street watchers can likewise directly identify non-compliant companies by checking out their stock ticker symbols. If a ticker has the initials "BC" attached to the end of it, the stock is designated as non-compliant. But such companies may continue trading normally on the exchange as they cycle through their probationary periods.

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