Introduction to Block Trades
article-377

Introduction to Block Trades

3 Min.

In finance, a block trade refers to a significant transaction involving securities that are privately negotiated. To maintain confidentiality, block trades are typically divided into smaller orders and carried out through multiple brokers. This approach helps conceal the actual size of the trade. It is also possible for block trades to occur outside the open market utilizing a private purchase agreement.

Basics

Block trades are sizable securities transactions that are privately negotiated outside of public markets. Their purpose is to minimize the impact on the price of the security involved. Block trades are commonly conducted by various types of investors, including hedge funds, institutional investors, and high-net-worth individuals. These transactions are typically facilitated through investment banks and other intermediaries. While specific thresholds for block trades may vary, they often involve significant quantities of shares or substantial monetary values.

How Do Block Trades Work?

Large sell orders on stock exchanges can significantly impact share prices. In contrast, privately negotiated block trades often benefit buyers with discounted market prices. The advantage of block trades is that they don't immediately reveal additional supply to other participants until the transaction is publicly recorded.

It's crucial to note that undisclosed block trades are considered material non-public information. To ensure fairness, regulatory organizations like FINRA prohibit the disclosure of such information to prevent front running.

Block houses and block trading facilities are specialized intermediaries that facilitate block trades. Block houses, found within brokerages, operate private exchanges called dark pools, where large buy and sell orders can be matched away from public view. Additionally, block houses may employ strategies such as breaking up large trades or placing iceberg orders on public markets to conceal the true extent of the additional supply.

Example of a Block Trade

A hedge fund wants to sell 50,000 shares of a mid-cap company at the current market price of $20. However, executing this large trade as a single market order would likely cause the price to drop significantly. The size of the order would also result in worse execution prices as demand diminishes. Other market participants might take advantage of this situation and short the stock, pushing the price down even further.

To avoid these issues, the hedge fund can turn to a block house for assistance. The block house would help break up the trade into smaller parts, such as 25 offers of 2,000 shares each. By involving different brokers, the origin of the trade would be disguised. Alternatively, the hedge fund's broker could find another institutional investor willing to buy all 50,000 shares at a price negotiated outside of the open market.

Conclusion

Block trades are an important component of the financial industry. They allow investors to execute significant transactions without negatively impacting the price of the security involved. Block trades are conducted outside of public markets and are facilitated by intermediaries like block houses and investment banks. While block trades offer advantages, it's essential to note that undisclosed block trades are considered material non-public information and must be handled carefully to ensure fairness.

 

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