The over-the-counter (OTC) market refers to securities trading that takes place outside of the stock exchanges, such as the NSE or BSE. Generally, the securities traded on the OTC market include stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), bonds, commodities, and derivatives.
In India, the OTC market operates via brokers, market-makers, custodians, and transfer agents of the OTC Exchange of India. There is no physical location associated with the OTC market. Instead, all trades occur electronically and directly between two parties in a decentralised market.
Although OTC securities are not listed on the stock exchanges, these companies or entities can still sell their stocks to the public over the counter.
For the normal investor, buying stocks in the OTC market is likely to appear no different in terms of the process for exchange-listed securities. For example, stocks are assigned a unique ticker symbol and are available for trading through the major online brokers.
The OTC market is the default exchange for a few securities, such as corporate bonds. It acts as a suitable alternative for companies that don’t meet or maintain the requirements, such as many shareholders or monthly trading volumes to list their shares on the stock exchanges.
Similarly, a few companies may opt to remain unlisted on the OTC market out of their choice. This may be related to their condition to not want to pay the listing fees or be subject to the reporting requirements of an exchange.
Key Difference: OTC Market and Stock Exchanges:
Besides the decentralised nature of the OTC market, a core difference is related to the amount of information companies tend to make available to investors.
At the time when stocks are listed on stock exchanges, investors can gain access to a significant number of information related to them, including reports, company news, and filings, along with real-time trading data.
However, in the case of stocks traded OTC, not much information is available. This makes OTC markets riskier for investors. Ultimately, it all comes down to the market research an investor can conduct before investing any money.
Also, many companies listed on an OTC market will eventually get listed on proper stock exchanges in time.
Rajiv is an independent editorial consultant for the last decade. Prior to this, he worked as a full-time journalist associated with various prominent print media houses. In his spare time, he loves to paint on canvas.