The term “microcap stock” applies to companies with low or “micro” capitalizations, meaning the total value of the company’s stock. Microcap companies typically have limited assets. For example, in recent cases where the SEC suspended trading in microcap stocks, the average company had only $6 million in net tangible assets–and nearly half had less than $1.25 million. Microcap stocks tend to be low priced and trade in low volumes.
Where Do Microcap Stocks trade?
Many microcap stocks trade in the “over-the-counter” (OTC) market and are quoted on OTC systems, such as the OTC Bulletin Board (OTCBB) or the “Pink Sheets.”
>OTC Bulletin Board: The OTCBB is an electronic quotation system that displays real-time quotes, last-sale prices, and volume information for many OTC securities that are not listed on the Nasdaq Stock Market or a national securities exchange. Brokers who subscribe to the system can use the OTCBB to look up prices or enter quotes for OTC securities. Although the NASD oversees the OTCBB, the OTCBB is not part of the Nasdaq Stock Market. Fraudsters often claim that an OTCBB company is a Nasdaq company to mislead investors into thinking that the company is bigger than it is.
>The “Pink Sheets”: The Pink Sheets–named for the color of paper they’ve historically been printed on–are a weekly publication of a company called the National Quotation Bureau. They are electronically updated on a daily basis. Brokers who subscribe to the Pink Sheets can find out the names and telephone numbers of the “market makers” in various OTC stocks–meaning the brokers who commit to buying and selling those OTC securities. Unless your broker has the Pink Sheets or you contact the market makers directly, you’ll have a difficult time finding price information for most stocks that are quoted in the Pink Sheets.
How Are Microcap Stocks Different From Other Stocks?
Lack of Public Information: The biggest difference between a microcap stock and other stocks is the amount of reliable, publicly available information about the company. Larger public companies file reports with the SEC that any investor can get for free from the SEC’s Web site. Professional stock analysts regularly research and write about larger public companies, and it’s easy to find their stock prices in the newspaper. In contrast, information about microcap companies can be extremely difficult to find, making them more vulnerable to investment fraud schemes. The SEC has proposed new rule changes that will increase the amount of information brokers must gather about microcap companies before quoting prices for their stocks in the OTC market.
No Minimum Listing Standards: Companies that trade their stocks on major exchanges and in the Nasdaq Stock Market must meet minimum listing standards. For example, they must have minimum amounts of net assets and minimum numbers of shareholders. In contrast, companies on the OTCBB or the Pink Sheets do not have to meet any minimum standards.
Risk: While all investments involve risk, microcap stocks are among the most risky. Many microcap companies tend to be new and have no proven track record. Some of these companies have no assets or operations. Others have products and services that are still in development or have yet to be tested in the market.