What Is Pink Market or Pink Sheets?

What Is Pink Market or Pink Sheets?

4 Min.

Pink Market, also known as Pink Sheets, is a term used to describe stocks that trade over-the-counter (OTC) rather than on major U.S. stock exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). This market is less regulated and has various tiers, including OTCQX, OTCQB, and Expert Market, with differing levels of financial standards and oversight. Pink Market offers opportunities for small companies but carries higher risks due to limited regulation and transparency.


Pink Market, often called Pink Sheets, is a market segment where stocks trade OTC, bypassing major U.S. stock exchanges like the NYSE. Companies in this market either cannot meet the requirements for listing on major exchanges or choose not to do so. Reasons for this may include being too small, foreign, or avoiding the regulatory burdens associated with major exchanges.

Origin of the Term

The term "pink sheet" originated from the practice of publishing price quotes for these unlisted stocks on pink-colored sheets of paper. While electronic trading has replaced paper, the colloquial term "pink sheets" persists.

Structure of the OTC Market

The OTC market operates as a decentralized marketplace for securities not listed on major exchanges. It relies on a network of dealers who maintain inventories of securities to facilitate transactions. OTC securities primarily trade on Alternative Trading Systems (ATSs). Two notable interdealer quotation systems are the Global OTC ATS (part of the NYSE Group) and OTC Link ATS (operated by OTC Markets).

OTC Market Group

The OTC Market Group, responsible for OTC trading, encompasses three main marketplaces:

  1. OTCQX: This marketplace imposes the most stringent requirements on listed companies, offering higher standards and regulatory oversight.
  2. OTCQB: OTCQB stands as the second tier with less rigorous standards compared to OTCQX but more than the Pink market.
  3. Pink Market (Pink Sheets): The Pink market is the most speculative and loosely regulated tier for OTC stocks. It has minimal financial standards.

Categories within Pink Market

Companies in the Pink Market can be categorized based on the quantity and promptness of information they share with investors. These categories include:

  • Current: Companies that comply fully with disclosure rules and regulatory requirements.
  • Limited: Companies that meet the minimum requirements under Rule 15c2-11 may be late with filings. This tier is less favorable and can lead to restrictions.

The Expert Market

Companies with minimal disclosure requirements trade on the Expert Market. Trading in this market occurs on an unsolicited basis, offering the lowest level of transparency.

Pink Market Regulation

Regulations surrounding pink sheets and OTC trading have evolved in response to controversy and concerns regarding transparency. Notable regulatory changes include:

  • Elimination of "dark securities" from the market.
  • Restricting broker-dealers and market makers from quoting OTC stocks without publicly available financial information, following Rule 15c2-11 amendments.

Disclosure Requirements

Companies trading on the Pink Market must provide information to ensure transparency. They can create their own disclosure documents or complete forms, with the information then posted on the OTC Markets website. Disclosures must adhere to specific guidelines, including preparing financial statements according to U.S. GAAP or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS).

For regular domestic companies, the following information must be disclosed:

  • Most recent annual report with two-year comparative financial statements and subsequent quarterly reports.
  • A disclosure statement.
  • An attorney letter following guidelines for unaudited companies.

Requirements for international companies and banks vary slightly.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Pink Market


  • Capital Raising: Pink Market offers small companies an avenue to raise capital by selling shares to the public, often with lower transaction costs.
  • Investor Accessibility: It allows investors to participate in the market, offering investment opportunities.


  • Risk of Fraud: Due to limited financial information and regulation, pink sheet securities are susceptible to fraud and price manipulation.
  • Lack of Transparency: The market needs more transparency, with limited public information about companies, making informed decisions challenging.
  • Illiquidity: Shares in the Pink Market often trade infrequently, making buying and selling challenging.

Examples of Pink Securities

Notable companies listed on the Pink Market include:

  • Tencent Holdings LTD (TCEHY): A Chinese multimedia company.
  • Luckin Coffee Inc. (LKNCY): A Chinese coffee chain.
  • SAP SE (SAPGF): A German software company.
  • DiDi Global Inc. (DIDIY): A Chinese mobility technology platform.

These companies, despite being listed on their home country exchanges, opt for the Pink Market to avoid duplicative regulatory paperwork.


The Pink Market, also known as Pink Sheets, offers a platform for stocks to trade OTC outside of major U.S. stock exchanges. While it provides opportunities for small companies to raise capital, it operates with limited regulation and transparency, posing higher risks to investors. The market structure includes different tiers, such as OTCQX, OTCQB, and the Pink Market, each with varying levels of financial standards and oversight. Understanding the Pink Market is crucial for investors navigating the OTC landscape and considering the advantages and disadvantages it presents.

Pink Market
Pink Sheets