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A “convertible security” is a security—usually a bond or a preferred stock—that can be converted into a different security—typically shares of the company’s common stock. In most cases, the holder of the convertible determines whether and when to convert. In other cases, the company has the right to determine when the conversion occurs.
Companies generally issue convertible securities to raise money. Companies that have access to conventional means of raising capital (such as public offerings and bank financings) might offer convertible securities for particular business reasons. Companies that may be unable to tap conventional sources of funding sometimes offer convertible securities as a way to raise money more quickly. In a conventional convertible security financing, the conversion formula is generally fixed – meaning that the convertible security converts into common stock based on a fixed price. The convertible security financing arrangements might also include caps or other provisions to limit dilution (the reduction in earnings per share and proportional ownership that occurs when, for example, holders of convertible securities convert those securities into common stock).