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Knowledge Base > Business Proposals > What Is a Prospectus and How to Read It?

What Is a Prospectus and How to Read It?

A prospectus is a legal document that companies must make available to the public when they want to sell financial products. This document that a company must issue communicates a lot of information to potential buyers about mutual funds, bonds, stocks, and other types of investments. Creating a prospectus can be a daunting task, but today with the help of tools like proposal creator, you can be sure that it will be created quickly and professionally at the same time.

From this text, you’ll learn what a prospectus is and how to prepare it to make it interesting for the readers.

What Is a Prospectus?

A prospectus is a formal document that contains everything an investor needs to know about the securities a company or investment fund wants to sell. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and similar government bodies require a prospectus to ensure openness and protect investors.

prospectus fragment

The purpose of a prospectus is to give investors information about the company or fund, its finances, the key people associated with the company, and the assurances it offers. It also shows any risks that may be associated with the investment. By providing this information, the prospectus allows potential investors to evaluate the investment opportunity, decide whether it suits their goals and risk tolerance level, and make an informed decision about the investment objectives.

Depending on the type of shares or securities being sold, the document may contain different information. During an initial public offering (IPO), an introductory document is issued to see what the market’s interest is in the stock or bond. For example, it gives financial information about the company, but not the number of shares or the price at which they were sold. Once the details of the IPO are determined, a final prospectus is drafted and sent to investors. This provides those with the necessary information to decide on an investment.

In the case of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), the mutual fund prospectus explains the objectives and methods of investment, as well as the past financial performance of the issuing company. It also contains information about the mutual fund’s relevant assets, management team, fees, costs, and other important details. Investors can obtain the mutual fund prospectus from the fund management company’s website, by mail, or through a broker or financial specialist.

What are The Types of Prospectuses?

Prospectuses come in several types depending on their purpose and content. Here are the types of prospectuses described in the information provided:

prospectus on wooden desk

  • Summary prospectus: Summary prospectuses are designed to provide investors with a brief overview of the company’s investment offering. This kind of prospectus contains the most important information from the beginning of the prospectus and recent updates but does not include all the sections and details found in the deemed prospectus.

  • Preliminary prospectus: This type of document is used by an issuer or fund to assess investor interest in a securities offering. It contains detailed information about operations and transactions but may not include finalized details such as the price of the financial instrument, the number of shares offered, or other detailed background information. It helps prospective investors evaluate investment opportunities before final terms are set. Sometimes such a prospectus is called a “red herring prospectus.”

  • Final prospectus: The final prospectus is a comprehensive document containing all the information necessary for the public to make informed investment decisions. It contains the final terms of the investment after any negotiations, such as the offered price of the specific mutual fund, the number of shares or certificates offered, and other relevant information. It can also be a shelf prospectus – summarizing the company and all investment options, which can be collated and compared with other prospectuses.

  • Deemed prospectus: a statutory prospectus typically must be created in accordance with the Companies Act of 2013 and submitted to the relevant government authority. It refers to any document that approves securities or offers them to the public, even if it has not been officially registered with the relevant regulatory body, such as the SEC. This type of prospectus is used when the document constitutes an offer or approval of a public investment.

What Should Be Included in Prospectus?

While the specific content of a prospectus may vary depending on the type of investment and applicable regulations, here are some common elements that should be included in a prospectus:

  1. Introduction and discussion: The prospectus should begin with an introduction that provides an overview of the investment opportunity, including the purpose of the offering and key features of the investment you can offer. Introduce the company, its background, and crucial information. You can describe a detailed description of the business or project underlying the investment, as well as information about the company’s history, management, operations, competitive landscape, and future prospects.

  2. Risk factors: The preliminary prospectus should outline the potential risks associated with the investment. It may include factors such as market risk, regulatory risk, economic risk, and specific risks associated with the investment issuer or industry. You can also explain the investment securities you offer to offset this investment risk.

    risk factors in prospectus

  3. Financial information: The prospectus should include comprehensive investment information, such as audited financial statements, balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. This information helps investors assess the financial condition and performance of an investment issuer.

  4. Use of investment proceeds: If an investment involves raising funds, the prospectus should clearly state how the money raised will be used. This may include financing for specific projects, acquisitions, research and development, working capital, or debt repayment.

  5. Terms: The prospectus should specify the terms of the investment, including the type of securities offered (e.g., stocks, bonds), the price or price range offered, any minimum or maximum investment requirements, and any privileges attached to the securities.

  6. Legal and regulatory information: This section should detail the legal and regulatory framework applicable to the investment. It may include information about the issuer’s compliance with securities laws, any necessary permits or licenses, and potential legal or regulatory risks.

    Legal and regulatory information in prospectus

  7. Management and directors: Investors are interested in the people who run the investment issuer. The prospectus should include information about the management team, their qualifications, experience, and potential conflicts of interest. It should also include the names and backgrounds of management or board members.

  8. Details of the offering: If the investment is being offered to the public, the prospectus should include information on the offering process, including the timetable, the underwriters or intermediaries involved, and instructions for subscription or purchase.

Who Can Issue a Prospectus?

The issuance of a prospectus is usually governed by securities laws and regulations specific to each jurisdiction. The rules governing who can issue a prospectus can vary from country to country – in the US, the rules are set by the SEC. In the European Union, as a rule, confirmation from the Supervisory Commission of one member country is enough to seek investors in all European markets. Here are some typical entities that may be authorized to issue a company’s prospectus:

  • Publicly traded companies

  • Mutual funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and other types of investment funds.

  • Government entities, such as national or regional governments, can issue government bonds, and so also can release a prospectus.

  • Financial institutions like banks, cooperative savings, and loan associations.

  • Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs): SPVs are entities created for specific investment purposes, such as securitization transactions or project financing.

In some countries, start-ups or private companies may issue prospectuses when conducting private placements or seeking investments from accredited investors. These prospectuses are usually distributed to a limited number of potential investors and may contain less extensive information compared to prospectuses issued by listed companies.

When Must a Prospectus Be Given?

Specific prospectus publication requirements vary by jurisdiction and market, but as a rule of thumb, example circumstances can be identified:

man looking at calendar and marking when prospectus must be given

  1. Initial public offerings (IPOs): When a company goes public and offers its securities to the public for the first time, it must provide a prospectus before offering or selling the securities.

  2. Secondary offerings: When a listed company issues additional securities after an IPO, such as a follow-on offering or rights offering, a prospectus must be provided to potential investors before the offering begins.

  3. Mutual fund offerings: Mutual funds, ETFs, and other investment funds are required to provide investors with a prospectus before they invest in the mutual fund.

  4. Bond offerings: When a company or government entity issues bonds or other debt securities, it usually has to make information available to the public market.

When you are compiling data or creating another professional company document, such as an annual report you can use the data you’re gathering to update your prospectus.

Why is a Prospectus Important for Company and Investors?

The prospectus is crucial for both companies and investors. In the case of companies, it is often required by law. It describes investment objectives to protect investors, and provides comprehensive information about the business and its securities, enabling potential investors to make informed decisions. It also acts as a marketing tool increasing transparency and credibility and helps build trust in the company.

For investors, the prospectus provides detailed investment objectives about the investment opportunity, including the company’s operations, finances, risks, and terms of the offering. It enables investors to assess risks, compare different investment options, make informed decisions, and conduct due diligence on the company.

investors consulting prospectus

A prospectus is a crucial document that not only contains basic information about a company’s financials but also provides prospective investors with the data necessary to take a decision. Like many professional documents, it establishes your validity and can be a crucial element of your brand strategy.

How To Read a Prospectus?

Every prospectus required by law is available on the SEC website. You can use their EDGAR database to find one. You can search for a prospectus by typing in the name of the company or investment fund, the stock symbol, or the filing date. This will help you find the specific prospectus you are looking for.

When you read a prospectus, remember that your goal is to determine whether the investment fits your goals, how risk-averse you are, and what your current assets are. You don’t have to read every word, but you should pay attention to a few key points.

woman reading prospectus

If the prospectus comes from a company, you should first look at its business plan and goals. This will show you what they do and where they want to go. Then pay attention to the risk factors mentioned in the article. See if the scale of danger is right for you and if the ROI is worth it.

Prospectus Example

While in many countries, like the USA, you need to send the prospectus to your government so that it might share it openly, many companies prefer to make their prospectus available online publicly. This provides your investors with more security – since your company has nothing to hide. The Securities and exchange commission (SEC) doesn’t forbid you from publishing your prospectus elsewhere.

With Publuu you can illustrate your company’s business model, using interactive movies, animations, and a realistic page-turning effect which is sure to make your prospectus look more professional. If you want to, you can publish the preliminary prospectus openly, and use our features to protect more complex offers using passwords and private communication channels.

In our example, you see how can you impress investors using a detailed prospectus describing the capabilities of your company’s business model.

Publuu’s online flipbook example

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As you can see, Publuu lets you combine advertising with the financial position in an impressive, professional manner.


When a company wants to offer financial instruments, it must present the options offered in a formal document called a prospectus. It tells possible investors everything they need to know about the company, including its financial health, risks, fees, and costs.

The prospectus is important for both companies and investors because it gives buyers information and helps them make smart investment choices.

With Publuu, you can make your prospectus an online version, not only showing off your offer but also making it a professionally looking and attention-grabbing document.

You may also be interested in:
How to write an executive summary in 8 Easy Steps
How to Write a Proposal for a Project – Top Tips and Templates

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