What Is a Divestiture?

By Brian Nibley · July 25, 2023 · 6 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. Read more We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right. Read less

What Is a Divestiture?

A divestiture, also known as a divestment, involves the liquidation of a company’s assets, such as building or intellectual property, or a part of its business, such as a subsidiary. This can occur through several different means, including bankruptcy, exchange, sale, or foreclosure.

Divestitures can be partial or total, meaning some or all of the company could be spun off or otherwise divested, depending on the reason for the company getting rid of its assets. Corporate mergers and acquisitions are a common example of one type of divestiture.

What Are Reasons a Company Would Divest Itself?

Often a divestiture reflects a decision by management that one part of the business no longer helps it meet its operational goals. A divestiture can be an intelligent financial decision for a business in certain situations.

If one aspect of a business (e.g., a product line or a subsidiary) isn’t working, has become unprofitable, or is likely to soon consume more capital than it can create, then instead of letting that be a continued drain on resources, a company can divest.

This not only does away with the troublesome aspect of the company, but also frees up some money the company can put toward more productive endeavors, such as new research and development, marketing, or new product lines.

There are many other potential reasons for a company to divest itself of a particular aspect of its business as well. The growth of a rival may prove overwhelming and insurmountable, in which case divesting might make more sense than continuing to compete.

A company may choose to undergo a divestment of some sort, such as closing some store locations, in order to avoid bankruptcy, to take advantage of new opportunities, or because new market developments might make it difficult for part of the company to survive.

Companies also sometimes must divest some of their business because of a court order aimed at breaking up monopolies. This can happen when a court determines that a company has completely cornered the marketplace for its goods or services, preventing fair competition.

💡 Quick Tip: All investments come with some degree of risk — and some are riskier than others. Before investing online, decide on your investment goals and how much risk you want to take.

What Happens in a Divestiture?

When a divestiture involves the sale of part or all of a company, the process has four parts. The first two parts involve planning for the actual divestment transaction itself. Once management decides which part of the company to divest and who will be buying it, the divestment can begin.

1. Monitoring the Portfolio

When pursuing an active divestiture strategy, the company’s management team will review each business unit and try to evaluate its importance to the company’s overall business strategy. They’ll want to understand the performance of each part of the business, which part needs improvement, and if it might make sense to eliminate one part.

2. Identifying a Buyer

Once the business identifies some or all of the company as a potential divestment target, the team moves on to the next problem that logically follows: Who will buy it?

The goal is to find a buyer that will pay enough for the business to cover the estimated opportunity cost of not selling the business unit in question. If the buyer does not have the liquidity to make the purchase with cash, they might offer an equity deal or borrow money to cover the cost.

3. Executing the Divestiture

The divestiture involves many aspects of the business, including a change of management, company valuation, legal ownership, and deciding which employees will remain with the company and which ones will have to leave.

4. Managing the Financials

Once the sale closes, attention turns to managing the transition. The transaction appears on the company’s profit-and-loss statement. If the amount that the company receives for the asset it sells is higher than the book value, that difference appears as a gain. If it’s less the company will record it as a loss.

The company will typically share the net impact of the divestiture in its earnings report, following the transaction.

What Are The Different Types of Divestitures?

There are several different ways companies can define divest for themselves. A few of these options include:

•   An equity carve-out, when a company can choose to sell a portion of its subsidiaries through initial public offerings but still retain full control of them.

•   A split-up demerger, when a company splits in two, and the original parent company ceases to be.

•   A partial sell-off, where a business sells one of its subsidiaries to another company. The funds from the sale then go toward newer, more productive activities.

•   A spin-off demerger, in which a company’s division becomes a separate business entity.

What Causes a Company to Divest?

A divestiture strategy can be part of an overall retrenchment strategy, when a company tries to reinvent itself by slimming down its activities and streamline its capital expenditures. When that happens, the company will divest those parts of the business that are not profitable, consuming too much time or energy, or no longer fit into the company’s big-picture goals.

Factors that could influence a company to adopt a divestiture strategy can be lumped into two broad groups:

External Developments

External developments include things outside the company, such as changing customer behavior, new competition, government policies and regulations, or the emergence of new disruptive technologies.

Internal Developments

Internal developments include situations arising from within the company, such as management problems, strategic errors, production inefficiencies, poor customer service, etc.

Divestiture Strategy Example

Imagine a fictitious company called ABC was the parent of a pharmaceutical company, a cosmetic company, and a clothing company. After some time and analysis, ABC’s management determines that the company’s financials have begun deteriorating and they need to make a change in the business.

Following the four-step process above, they begin by finding the weakest points of business. Eventually, they decide that the pharmaceutical branch of the company is under-performing and would also be the easiest for the company to divest. It makes more sense to stick to clothing and cosmetics.

After identifying a buyer (perhaps a larger pharmaceutical company or a promising startup looking to expand), the divestment transaction occurs. The employees who work in the pharmaceutical branch either lose their jobs, or they get roles working for the new owner of that part of the business. The cash infusion that ABC gets as a result of the sale of its pharmaceutical branch will go toward new marketing efforts and creating new product lines.

💡 Quick Tip: It’s smart to invest in a range of assets so that you’re not overly reliant on any one company or market to do well. For example, by investing in different sectors you can add diversification to your portfolio, which may help mitigate some risk factors over time.

The Takeaway

Divesting is essentially the opposite of investing. It involves a company selling off parts of its business. A divestiture can have some positive outcomes on the value of a company, and there are several business reasons that a company would choose to divest. Depending on the circumstances, this process could theoretically be either a positive or a negative for shareholders.

Investors could see news of a divestment as a sign that a company is struggling, leading them to sell the stock. While this initial reaction could be one likely outcome, the company could eventually wind up doing even better than before if it manages itself better as a leaner company. In either case, the divestiture is one factor that investors can use in their analysis of that company’s stock.

Ready to invest in your goals? It’s easy to get started when you open an investment account with SoFi Invest. You can invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), mutual funds, alternative funds, and more. SoFi doesn’t charge commissions, but other fees apply (full fee disclosure here).

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.

Photo credit: iStock/NeoLeo

SoFi Invest®
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.


All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

All your finances.
All in one app.

App Store rating

SoFi iOS App, Download on the App Store
SoFi Android App, Get it on Google Play

TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender