Before a stock can be traded by investors, it must first be listed on an exchange. Different stock exchanges can have physical locations with in-person trading or be entirely electronic. After the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), the Nasdaq is the second largest stock exchange in the world.
Not just any company can be listed for trading on the Nasdaq, however. There are specific Nasdaq listing requirements that must be met as a condition of inclusion. These rules are designed to ensure that only reputable companies can trade on the exchange.
Understanding Nasdaq listing rules and how a stock exchange works can be helpful when mapping out an investing strategy and determining which stocks to purchase. Because exchanges play such an important role in stock listings, these requirements can also serve as a tech IPO guide for investors.
Here’s a closer look at how the Nasdaq works and what’s required for a company to be listed on the exchange.
What is the Nasdaq?
The Nasdaq play an important role in the history of the stock market. It’s an electronic stock exchange founded in 1971 by the National Association of Securities Dealers. Nasdaq is an acronym for National Association of Securities Dealers Automatic Quotations.
In terms of how many companies are on Nasdaq, the exchange lists approximately 5,000 common stocks. Those stocks represent a diverse range of industries, including financial services, health care, retail and tech stocks.
In addition to identifying the stock exchange itself, the term “Nasdaq” can also be used as shorthand when referencing the Nasdaq Composite Index. This stock market index tracks the performance of approximately 3,000 stocks listed on the Nasdaq exchange.
The Nasdaq Composite is a capitalization-weighted index, meaning its makeup is determined by market capitalization. Market cap is a measure of a company’s value as determined by its share price multiplied by the total number of outstanding shares. The Nasdaq Composite includes some of the largest U.S. companies by market cap.
Nasdaq Listing Requirements
The Nasdaq doesn’t include every publicly traded company in the U.S. In order to be included on the exchange, companies must first meet Nasdaq listing rules. These rules apply to companies that are seeking to have common stocks on the exchange.
Nasdaq listing requirements span a number of criteria:
• Cash flow
• Market capitalization
• Total assets
• Stockholders’ equity
• Bid price
The Nasdaq listing rules allow companies to qualify under one of four sets of standards, based on the criteria listed above.
Standard 1: Earnings
A company’s earnings are a reflection of its profitability. To qualify for listing on the Nasdaq based on earnings alone, a company must be able to show:
• Aggregate pre-tax earnings of $11 million or more for the three prior fiscal years
• Earnings of $2.2 million or more for the two most recent fiscal years
• Zero net losses for each of the three prior fiscal years
For a company to be included under this standard, they have to be able to check off all three of these boxes. If they can meet two criteria but not a third, they won’t be able to qualify for listing.
Standard 2: Capitalization with Cash Flow
Capitalization is a measure of a company’s size in relation to the rest of the market. Cash flow tracks the movement of cash in and out of a company. To qualify for Nasdaq listing under the capitalization with cash flow standard, the following rules apply:
• Aggregate cash flow of $27.5 million or more in the prior three fiscal years
• Zero negative cash flow for the prior three fiscal years
• Average market capitalization of $550 million or more over the prior 12 months
• Revenue of $110 million or more for the previous fiscal year
Again, all four of those conditions have to be met to qualify for Nasdaq listing using this standard.
Standard 3: Capitalization with Revenue
The third Nasdaq listing standard focuses on company size and revenue, which is a measure of income. The minimum requirements for both are as follows:
• Average market capitalization of $850 million or more over the prior 12 months
• Revenue of $90 million or more for the previous fiscal year
Larger companies may opt to take this route if they can’t meet the cash flow requirements under Standard 2.
Standard 4: Assets with Equity
In lieu of earnings or market capitalization, companies can use their assets and the value of shareholders’ equity to qualify for listing on the Nasdaq. There are three specific thresholds companies have to meet:
• Market capitalization of $160 million
• Total assets of $80 million
• Stockholders’ equity of $55 million
Regardless of which standard a company uses to qualify for listing, they have to maintain them continually. Otherwise, the company could be delisted from the Nasdaq exchange.
General Nasdaq Listing Rules
Aside from meeting the listing requirements set forth for each standard, there are some general Nasdaq listing requirements companies have to observe.
For example, the Nasdaq minimum share price or bid price for inclusion is $4. It’s possible to qualify with a bid price below that amount but that may entail meeting additional requirements.
Companies must also have at least 1.25 million publicly traded shares outstanding. That threshold applies to both seasoned companies and those seeking their initial public offering (IPO). Additionally, IPO requirements specify that the market value of those shares must be at least $45 million. For seasoned companies, the market value requirement increases to $110 million.
Nasdaq listing rules also cover criteria related to corporate governance. Under those requirements, companies must:
• Make annual and interim reports available to shareholders
• Have a majority of independent directors on the board of directors
• Adopt a code of conduct that applies to all employees
• Hold annual meetings of shareholders
• Avoid potential or actual conflicts of interest
Companies must also pay a listing fee to gain entry to the Nasdaq. Entry fees can range from $150,000 to $295,000, depending on the total number of shares outstanding. Those amounts include a non-refundable $25,000 application fee. Paying the fee doesn’t guarantee that a company will be listed on the Nasdaq.
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How to Choose NASDAQ Stocks
Knowing how stocks are chosen for the Nasdaq and other exchanges can be helpful in conducting your own research when deciding what to buy or sell. Listing on the Nasdaq or NYSE can also be important for a company in terms of which exchange-traded fund it gets added into. Broadly speaking, there are two ways to approach stock research: technical analysis and fundamental analysis.
Technical analysis focuses on market trends, momentum and day-to-day movements in stock pricing. You may use a technical analysis approach for choosing stocks if you’re an active day trader who’s interested in capitalizing on market trends to make short-term gains.
Using fundamental analysis on stocks, on the other hand, focuses on a company’s financial health. That includes things like earnings, profitability and how much debt the company has. Using a fundamental approach may be preferable if you favor a long-term, buy-and-hold strategy. And fundamental analysis echoes how the Nasdaq and other stock exchanges determine which stocks to include.
Becoming a savvy investor starts with learning the basics of how the stock market and stock exchanges such as the Nasdaq work. Understanding Nasdaq listing requirements can offer insight into how stock exchanges select which companies to offer for trading.
When you’re ready to invest, you can use an online platform like SoFi Invest® to begin. It’s possible to start investing with as little as $1 and build a diversified portfolio that includes individual stocks and low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) from the Nasdaq as well as other exchanges.
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