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Ask TheStreet: Delistings

Editor's Note: Ask TheStreet is designed to answer questions about the market, strategies and investment methods. Please email us to ask a question, but keep in mind that we cannot offer specific investment advice.

What exactly happens when a stock is delisted and sent to the OTC bulletin board? What about if the stock is relisted? Thanks, H.L.

Gregg Greenberg: It's not a great sign when a company you own is demoted from a major league exchange like the NYSE or Nasdaq to the over-the-counter bulletin board. It usually means the company is having financial or reporting troubles, neither of which is an encouraging sign for shareholders.

Nevertheless, just like in baseball, sometimes being sent down to the minors gives a player a chance to get his act together before returning to the bigs. For example, one of the best-performing stocks on any exchange last year was NutriSystem (NTRI), which spent a brief time in Triple-A ball on the bulletin board before becoming an all-star performer on the Nasdaq.

Among other rules, the Nasdaq requires a company to maintain a minimum bid price of $1 per share. If a company's price closes for 30 consecutive business days below the minimum bid price, then the company is notified that it has 90 calendar days to meet the requirement or face delisting. The Nasdaq also will threaten a company with delisting if it doesn't provide timely financial reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The NYSE has similar share-price standards for continued listings, as well as even stricter criteria for market capitalization and financial metrics.

If a company fails to meet these listing requirements and is booted off, then management may decide to trade their shares on the less-stringent over-the-counter bulletin board.

Unlike the Nasdaq, the OTCBB doesn't impose listing standards, provide automated trade executions or maintain relationships with quoted issuers.

So what does the OTCBB actually offer its 3,300 listed companies? By its own definition, the OTCBB is a regulated quotation service that displays real-time quotes, last-sale prices, and volume information in over-the-counter equity securities.

To remain eligible for quotation on the OTCBB, an issuer must remain current in its filings with the SEC or applicable regulatory authority, and, well, that's about it, which is why most financial advisers tell their clients to steer clear of bulletin board stocks.
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