Tender in Finance Definition: How It Works, With Example

Tender

Investopedia / Laura Porter

What Is a Tender?

The term tender refers to an invitation to bid for a project. Tendering usually refers to the process whereby governments and financial institutions invite bids for large projects that must be submitted within a finite deadline. The word tender can also refer to the acceptance of a formal offer, such as a takeover bid. This form of tendering is the process whereby shareholders submit their shares or securities in response to a takeover offer.

Key Takeaways

  • Tender usually refers to the process whereby governments and financial institutions invite bids for large projects that must be submitted within a finite deadline.
  • A tender offer is a public solicitation to all shareholders requesting that they tender their stock for sale at a specific price during a certain time.
  • A request for tender is a formal and structured invitation to suppliers to submit competitive bids to supply raw materials, products, or services. 
  • The term tender also refers to the process whereby shareholders submit their shares or securities in response to a takeover offer.
  • Large institutional investors buy government securities through a competitive tender process, while smaller investors buy government securities through a non-competitive tender process.
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Tender

How a Tender Works

As noted above, a tender is a term used in business to refer to an invitation by governments and other entities to submit a bid for contracts. Most institutions have a well-defined tender process for projects or procurements. There are also specific processes in place to govern the opening, evaluation, and final selection of the vendors. This ensures that the selection process is fair and transparent.

A request for tender is a formal and structured invitation to suppliers to submit competitive bids to supply raw materials, products, or services. Because this is a public and open process, laws were created to govern the process to ensure fair competition among bidders.

For example, without laws, bribery and nepotism may flourish. Tender services are available for potential bidders and include a wide range of tenders from private and public sources. These services include crafting suitable bids, coordinating the process to ensure deadlines are met, and ensuring compliance with applicable laws.

In the private sector, requests for tenders are referred to as requests for proposals (RFPs). This allows potential bidders to respond to the defined needs of the issuer.

Tender vs. Tender Offer

Don't confuse the term tender with a tender offer, which most people often do. The latter is a public solicitation to all shareholders requesting that they tender their stock for sale at a specific price during a certain time. To entice shareholders to release a specific number of shares, the offer typically exceeds the current market value of the shares. In the U.S., tender offers are highly scrutinized and subject to extensive regulation.

For example, on Dec. 13, 2021, Dell (DELL) announced it closed a tender offer to repurchase shares of the company's securities. To fund the stock buyback, the company used cash on hand along with the net proceeds from the sale of $2.25 billion of senior notes.

Since the deal targets shareholders directly, it effectively removes upper management from the process, unless those members of management are also substantial shareholders. If an acquiring company already has a notable share of the target company (which is referred to as a foothold block), a minority of the remaining shareholders may be enough to allow the offering company to become the majority shareholder.

If the requested shares are not released by the deadline, the deal is often considered void. If this happens, it effectively allows shareholders to block the deal.

Competitive Tender vs. Non-Competitive Tender

The terms competitive tender and non-competitive tender refer to two different methods governments use to sell government securities. In the United States, the government sells Treasury securities, such as bonds, bills, and notes, to help fund the government's operations. Individual investors, commercial banks, corporations, pension funds, brokers, and dealers are some of the typical buyers of government securities. In exchange for investing in these securities, buyers will receive the government's promise of full repayment at maturity along with a specified interest payment.

There are two ways that investors can purchase government securities—through a competitive tender and a non-competitive tender. A competitive tender is a bidding process in which large institutional investors buy newly issued government securities. These institutional investors compete with one another to purchase the securities in an auction. The investor that bids the highest will win the auction and can purchase the security at the bid price.

Smaller, non-institutional investors purchase government securities through a non-competitive tender process. The price for these securities is set by the large institutional investors during the competitive tender. For example, when the U.S. Treasury auctions securities to large institutional investors, it will use the winning bid to establish the fair market value (FMV) for its securities. It will then use this value to set the price that smaller investors will pay during the non-competitive tender.

The U.S. Treasury issues bonds in a term of 20 years or 30 years and pays a fixed interest rate every six months until they mature.

Examples of Tender

In the U.S., many business owners look to expand their businesses by becoming government contractors with federal, state, or local governments. They sell services or goods to governments and a variety of agencies. Federal agencies that routinely buy from contractors include the Defense Contract Management Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Homeland Security.

Becoming a contractor requires businesses to compete with one another by presenting proposals and quotes based on the requirements outlined by the government or agency in their invitation to tender. This process is also referred to as a call for bids. The U.S. federal government lists contract opportunities in a searchable database that helps business owners match open opportunities with the products or services they offer. The database also lists pre-solicitation notices, solicitation notices, and award notices.

What Does Tender Mean in Business and Finance?

Tender can have a couple of different meanings in business in finance. The most common definition of the word is the invitation to bid for a project—usually a large bid from contractors for projects by governments and financial institutions. It may also refer to the acceptance of a formal offer, which can include a takeover bid. In this case, shareholders put up their shares to the offering entity.

What Are Some Examples of Tendering?

Some of the most common examples of tendering include the submission process by contractors to various levels of government. For instance, private companies compete with one another to become government contractors. The process involves submitting proposals with costs based on the work required. Government agencies that typically put out calls for proposals are the Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Homeland Security.

What Are the Steps to Take in the Tender Process?

The tender process steps generally include the call for submissions, the bid submission, the selection process, and the formation of the contract. Once these steps are all complete, the contractor starts the project and sees it through completion.

What's the Difference Between Tender and Tender Offer?

People often confuse the terms tender and tender offer. Tender (or tendering) is mainly defined as the invitation to submit a bid for a project. Governments and other entities normally put out calls for contractors to submit proposals for projects that need to be done. They review these proposals and choose the best one for the job.

A tender offer, on the other hand, is made by a public company or third party to purchase a shares from another company's shareholders. The bidder is the party conducting the tender offer.

The Bottom Line

Tender is an often-used term in business, finance, and investing that can have various meanings. In a business setting, tender refers to the process where governments invite vendors to bid for the right to work on government projects or provide goods or other services.

When purchasing government securities—such as U.S. Treasury bills, bonds, and notes—a tender has a different meaning. It refers to the bidding process in which investors purchase these securities. In a stock buyback, a tender offer refers to a corporation's solicitation to repurchase its stock from shareholders. Other uses of the term include short tender and hedged tender.

Article Sources
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  2. U.S. Department of Justice. "Price Fixing, Bid Rigging, and Market Allocation Schemes: What They Are and What to Look For."

  3. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Tender Offer."

  4. Treasury Direct. "Treasury Bonds."

  5. USAGov. "Get Help with Government Contracting."