When studying for a securities exam such as the FINRA Securities Industry Essentials (SIE) exam and the Series 7, Series 14, Series 24, Series 79, or the MSRB Series 50, Series 52, Series 53, or Series 54, it’s likely you will encounter the word “tender.” This bit of terminology may be confusing at first. But learning the ways “tender” is commonly used in the securities industry will prevent you from getting tripped up when you see it on an exam.
You may have heard this word in connection with stock buybacks. When a company offers to buy its shares back from stockholders, the company is said to be conducting a tender offer. The stockholders who take the company up on the offer are said to be tendering their shares. A company may also make a tender offer to a different company’s shareholders, for example if it wants to acquire the other company.
The word “tender” comes from the field of law. To tender is to make a binding offer to enter into an agreement. (It also has a second meaning of presenting payment, which is why your dollar bill has the phrase “legal tender” on it.) So when you tender a security you own, you are offering to sell it on terms that have been spelled out between you and the other party. In the case of a tender offer, the company must specify these terms when it makes the offer and shareholders must take them or leave them. In many cases, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires that these terms include a window of time during which shareholders who tendered their shares may change their minds. In that case, the “binding offer” is not binding right away.
Another securities-related use of “tender” is when a security gives its owner the right to sell it back to the issuer. Exercising this right is sometimes called tendering the security. For example, a municipal bond might have a tender option that gives the bondholder the right to sell it back to the municipality at a certain time for a certain price. Additionally, some variable-rate municipal securities come with a mandatory tender that is triggered when the rate is adjusted. When this happens, the bondholder must choose between tendering the bond or accepting the new rate.
So if you see the word “tender” on a securities exam, it means that the owner of a security is offering to sell it under specific terms and conditions, and the owner’s ability to back out of the offer may be limited.
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