Illiquidity Discount Formula + Calculator

Capital assets, including real estate and production equipment, often have value but are not easily sold when cash is required. They generally include any property owned by the company that is outside of the products produced for sale. Low open interest or trading volume usually translates into wider bid and ask spreads that make both buyers and sellers settle for less than ideal or desired prices. Illiquid is a term commonly used to describe assets or investments that cannot be quickly and easily converted into cash at the current fair market price.

Financial analysts use a variety of ratios, including current ratio, quick ratio, cash ratio and acid-test ratio, to identify companies with strong liquidity. In a highly liquid market, the price a buyer offers per share and the price the seller is willing to accept will usually be close. However, these two prices may vary significantly in an illiquid market, with the seller suffering significant losses. The definition of liquidity tells us that in a liquid stock market, shares are easily exchanged, thereby supporting higher prices. In an illiquid market, shares are difficult to trade, thus pushing prices lower.

  1. Illiquidity in the context of a business refers to a company that does not have the cash flows necessary to make its required debt payments, although it does not mean the company is without assets.
  2. During these times, holders of illiquid securities may find themselves unable to unload them at all, or unable to do so without losing money.
  3. In other words, upon purchasing the investment, there is an immediate risk of value loss where the asset cannot be sold again – i.e. the cost of buyer’s remorse in which it is difficult to reverse the purchase.
  4. Academic research has shown the historic persistence of an illiquidity premium — the excess return received for tying up capital for an extended period of time.
  5. It is more helpful to think of lockup as incurring an opportunity cost.

Liquidity or illiquidity refers to the ease or difficulty with which an asset or security can be converted into cash without affecting its market price. In investing, liquidity refers to the ease with which an asset can be converted into cash without degrading its market value. The most liquid of all assets is cash, but stocks are another excellent example of a highly liquid asset. Some examples of inherently illiquid assets include houses and other real estate, cars, antiques, private company interests and some types of debt instruments.

Trading volume is a popular measure of liquidity but is now considered to be a flawed indicator. The Flash Crash of May 6, 2010, proved this with painful, concrete examples. For example, if a person wants a $1,000 refrigerator, cash is ig broker review the asset that can most easily be used to obtain it. If that person has no cash but a rare book collection that has been appraised at $1,000, they are unlikely to find someone willing to trade the refrigerator for their collection.

For B-bonds, which are listed on an inefficient exchange that charges higher fees, it is 4%. One of the most important features of an asset is how quickly or slowly it can be converted into cash. Learn what an illiquid asset is and why it matters in both accounting and finance. Illiquidity is considered a risk because it limits your ability to quickly convert an asset into cash without significantly affecting its price. Hence, if you need to sell an illiquid asset promptly, you may have to do so at a significant discount to its perceived market value, incurring a loss.

The Yale model provides an example of the liquidity premium in action. Additionally, a company may become illiquid if it is unable to obtain the cash necessary to meet debt obligations. Every asset has a liquidity, from property to your collection of antiques and even the cash in…

Understanding Liquidity

The fund manager isn’t beholden to investors and shareholders, like their public market equivalents, who are viewing results over shorter intervals. Liquid investments are assets easily and quickly converted to cash at fair market value, like a savings account or a short-term Treasury bond. The returns may be low, but the money is safe and can be accessed at any time, relatively easily, for its fair value.

Liquidity Premium: Definition, Examples, and Risk

Basically, because the asset in question isn’t liquid, there’s greater risk involved in purchasing it, since the investor can’t realize returns easily. Illiquidity as a whole is viewed as an investment risk, since the investor’s money is tied up. Illiquid investments can take many forms, including certificates of deposit, certain loans, annuities, and other investment assets that the purchaser must hold for a specified period. These investments cannot be liquidated or withdrawn early without a penalty. It is crucial for a business to maintain adequate levels of liquidity to ensure the ongoing, smooth operation of the business.

A company that becomes illiquid may not be able to pay its creditors or suppliers on a timely basis. Conversely, a liquidity premium can be added to the valuation of an asset that can easily be sold/exited. In other words, upon purchasing the investment, there is an immediate risk of value loss where the asset cannot be sold again – i.e. the cost of buyer’s remorse in which it is difficult to reverse the purchase.

Current topics

During these times, holders of illiquid securities may find themselves unable to unload them at all, or unable to do so without losing money. Looking beyond bonds, suppose you are offered two investment properties that are virtually identical in all respects—location, square footage, condition, etc. However, property A is in a well-established neighborhood with high demand, making it relatively easy to sell quickly. Property B is in a similar area but one with lower demand, making it harder to sell or rent out. Because property B is less liquid, buyers can demand a higher rate of return to compensate for the risk and inconvenience of potentially holding onto the property for a longer period.

These names tend to be lesser known, have lower trading volume, and often have lower market value and volatility. Thus, the stock for a large multinational bank will tend to be more liquid than that of a small regional bank. Financial analysts look at a firm’s ability to use liquid assets to cover its short-term obligations. Generally, when using these formulas, a ratio greater than one is desirable. There are several liquidity ratios used to measure a company’s ability to pay off its short-term liabilities. A higher liquidity ratio means the company can quickly sell off its assets to pay off its debts, while a lower liquidity ratio could serve as a warning that the company may be at risk of default.


Certain collectibles and art pieces are often illiquid assets as well. This can occur when the yield curve inverts, meaning longer-term bonds offer less yield than short-term ones. This is uncommon, and investors often view it as a sign that the wider economy is not faring well.

Accounting Liquidity

In other words, liquidity describes the degree to which an asset can be quickly bought or sold in the market at a price reflecting its intrinsic value. Cash is universally considered the most liquid asset because it can most quickly and easily be converted into other assets. Tangible assets, such as real estate, fine art, and collectibles, are all relatively illiquid. Other financial assets, ranging from equities to partnership units, fall at various places on the liquidity spectrum. Having a portfolio of highly liquid assets can act as a safety net in the scenario of an unexpected event.

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