In finance and economics, divestment or divestiture is the reduction of some kind of asset for financial, ethical, or political objectives or sale of an existing business by a firm. A divestment is the opposite of an investment.
First, a firm may divest (sell) businesses that are not part of its core operations so that it can focus on what it does best. For example, Eastman Kodak, Ford Motor Company, Future Group and many other firms have sold various businesses that were not closely related to their core businesses.
A second motive for divestitures is to obtain funds. Divestitures generate funds for the firm because it is selling one of its businesses in exchange for cash. For example, CSX Corporation made divestitures to focus on its core railroad business and also to obtain funds so that it could pay off some of its existing debt.
A third motive for divesting is that a firm's "break-up" value is sometimes believed to be greater than the value of the firm as a whole. In other words, the sum of a firm's individual asset liquidation values exceeds the market value of the firm's combined assets. This encourages firms to sell off what would be worth more when liquidated than when retained.
A fourth motive to divest a part of a firm may be to create stability. Philips, for example, divested its chip division called NXP because the chip market was so volatile and unpredictable that NXP was responsible for the majority of Philips's stock fluctuations while it represented only a very small part of Philips NV.
A fifth motive for firms to divest a part of the company is that a division is under-performing or even failing.
A sixth reason to divest could be forced on to the firm by the regulatory authorities, for example in order to create competition.
Often the term is used as a means to grow financially in which a company sells off a business unit in order to focus their resources on a market it judges to be more profitable, or promising. Sometimes, such an action can be a spin-off. (For the United States: Divestment of certain parts of a company can occur when required by the Federal Trade Commission before a merger with another firm is approved. A company can divest assets to wholly owned subsidiaries.)
Some firms are using technology to facilitate the process of divesting some divisions. They post the information about any division that they wish to sell on their website so that it is available to any firm that may be interested in buying the division. For example, Alcoa has established an online showroom of the divisions that are for sale. By communicating the information online, Alcoa has reduced its hotel, travel, and meeting expenses.
The term "Divestment Campaign" was first used in the 1980s, most commonly in the United States, to refer to the use of a concerted economic boycott designed to pressure the government of South Africa into abolishing its policy of apartheid. Since then, divestment campaigns have focused on countries and companies for their policies.
Major Companies targeted through divestment campaigns in the United States have included: