Marketability Discount

Another factor to be considered in valuing closely held companies is the marketability of an interest in such businesses. Marketability is defined as the ability to convert the business interest into cash quickly, with minimum transaction and administrative costs, and with a high degree of certainty as to the amount of net proceeds. There is usually a cost and a time lag associated with locating interested and capable buyers of interests in privately-held companies, because there is no established market of readily-available buyers and sellers.

All other factors being equal, an interest in a publicly traded company is worth more because it is readily marketable. Conversely, an interest in a private-held company is worth less because no established market exists. The IRS Valuation Guide for Income, Estate and Gift Taxes, Valuation Training for Appeals Officers acknowledges the relationship between value and marketability, stating: “Investors prefer an asset which is easy to sell, that is, liquid.”

The discount for lack of control is separate and distinguishable from the discount for lack of marketability.

It is the valuation professional’s task to quantify the lack of marketability of an interest in a privately-held company. Because, in this case, the subject interest is not a controlling interest in the Company, and the owner of that interest cannot compel liquidation to convert the subject interest to cash quickly, and no established market exists on which that interest could be sold, the discount for lack of marketability is appropriate.

Several empirical studies have been published that attempt to quantify the discount for lack of marketability. These studies include the restricted stock studies and the pre-IPO studies. The aggregate of these studies indicate average discounts of 35% and 50%, respectively.

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