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What is Treasury Stock?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Treasury stock is any shares issued by a corporation that have been repurchased by the company and are currently not offered for sale to investors. The stock is not considered to be outstanding, although the shares remain active and may be resold by the corporation at some future date. There is no time limit on how long a company may hold on to treasury stock.

While the stock is in the possession of the issuer, the shares do not provide the same benefits as the shares that are held by various investors. Treasury stock does not carry voting privileges, nor will the stock provide any type of dividends or earnings per share. In the event that the corporation chooses to offer the shares for sale, the stock would regain both voting rights and be subject to the issuance of dividend payments to the shareholder.

A company may choose to collect treasury stock for several reasons. Repurchasing issued shares of stock is often a way to counter a takeover attempt. By re-acquiring enough shares of issued stock, the company can effectively prevent a corporate raider from buying enough shares to initiate a takeover bid. If successful in preventing the hostile takeover, the company may be able to purchase any shares in the control of the raider and then begin to reissue the shares to other investors.

Another common application of treasury stock is to provide a foundation for stock option programs for executives and other employees of the company. In the case of an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP), shares of one class of stock may be repurchased and converted into another class in order to comply with the terms of the plan. Once converted, the shares are no longer considered treasury stock, and carry any privileges specified by the structure of the ESOP.

At its discretion, a company may choose to hold onto treasury stock for an indefinite period of time. While in the possession of the corporation, the stock is stored in the treasury of the company. The company can also elect to cancel or retire the shares, if this is determined to be in the best interests of the corporation. Any action that releases the shares of stock from the company treasury change the status of the shares. This means shares that are retired or reissued for purchase are no longer considered treasury stock.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGeek, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By JaneAir — On Apr 28, 2012

I think it's a little strange that treasury stock doesn't come with the same benefits as other kinds of stock do. I wonder if this is because the company already has power over itself anyway? So extending more rights and benefits to the company through treasury stock wouldn't exactly make sense?

Either way, I think it's interesting how stock can change type so quickly and easily. One minute it's regular stock. Then, the company buys it and it becomes treasury stock. Then, the company sells it and it's regular stock again!

By Monika — On Apr 27, 2012

@JessicaLynn - I don't know if the practice of keeping physical copies of treasury stock around will end anytime soon. Still, I guess we'll see.

Anyway, I'm always amazed at the machinations big companies have to go through regarding their stock. I mean, they might end up in a position of having to buy back their bonds in order to thwart a hostile takeover. Then if they can't buy them back, their company gets bought right out from under them!

Or, they might just want to get the stock back so they can offer their employees more stock options. Either way, it seems complicated to me.

By JessicaLynn — On Apr 26, 2012

I'm surprised that treasury stock is physically kept in a company's treasury or vault. Everything is done digitally these days, I almost forgot that stock can actually have a physical representation. Still, I wonder how long this practice will really last?

I imagine in the future, treasury stock will be digitally kept on a company hard drive, and probably backed up in several places. Then, when the company wants to change the treasury stock to something else, they'll just do so on the computer. I think this makes a lot more sense, and also makes it impossible to lose the copies of the treasury stock!

By blshaulis — On Dec 25, 2008

May the corporation purchase treasury stock at a fixed amount monthly for three years and then pay a final balloon payment in full satisfaction of the corp/seller agreement?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
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