The concept of buying a “stock” is that the buyer becomes a partial owner of a company and its assets.
However, there is no option to buy a stock-like investment in a particular sub-product of a company. This is surprising, since so many bizarre and creative “financial instruments” exist: you’d think someone would have implemented this relatively intuitive one!
Let’s consider the example of a Microsoft invester in 2010. This person might have varied opinions on the company’s many product offerings, such as:
- The Microsoft Office Suite (desktop applications: Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
- Windows Stores (physical retail locations)
- The Windows Phone (operating system and hardware, competing with the iPhone and Android)
- Azure (cloud computing service)
- The Xbox (game console)
When buying stock in Microsoft (“MSFT”), a savvy purchaser should consider all of these aspects of the company.
This can be difficult—an investor might predict that Windows Phone will have a profitable future, but that the Xbox brand would be discontinued. Should that investor buy MSFT? Unclear.
Why not make stocks even more confusing by providing the option to buy stocks in a specific product. Now, the example purchaser above could buy stock in “Windows Phone” or “The Windows Retail Experience” instead of Microsoft as a whole.
This could, perhaps, be accomplished by the company selling special stock certificates (Figure 1) that pay out dividends in a really specific fashion:
For example, every 5,000 “MSFT_XBOX” shares might entitle the bearer to $0.01 for each Xbox sold, or 10,000 “MSFT_POWERPOINT” shares could pay out 43 cents for every thousand sales of Office.
Some sort of up-and-coming financial professional should make a name for themselves by figuring out how to implement this idea!
PROS: Opens up new and exciting ways for people to gamble with a veneer of responsibility!
CONS: Could be complicated to judge how payouts work. Could a company scam its retail investors by just moving money between divisions? Who knows!