Legally mandated document published by every firm offering its securities to public for purchase. It must comply with strict legal requirements and is filed for approval with the country's securities inspectorate such as the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) of the US, or the Securities & Investment Board (SIB) of the UK. A prospectus must disclose essential information such as (1) firm's objectives, (2) primary business activity, (3) background and qualification of principal officers, (4) current financial position, (5) projected financial statements, (6) assumptions underlying the projections, (7) foreseeable risks to the firm, (8) offering price on the stock (shares), and (9) (in case of bonds and notes) how the interest and principal will be paid. Sometimes, a prospect is preceded by an offering circular (called a red herring) and/or a preliminary disclosure (called pathfinder), but they, although legitimate, are not legal documents.
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