What Is Risk Arbitrage?


Risk arbitrage is an investment strategy that has been used by various investors and institutions to attempt to profit by taking advantage of opportunities often available when there is a corporate reorganization and one or more companies are involved. A specialized type of arbitrage, the definition of risk arbitrage, or “merger arbitrage”, consists of the buying of the stock of a company that is the target of a takeover. If the takeover is successful, the investor hopes to eventually sell the stock at a higher price for a profit.

This type of investing, though it can be complicated, involves a market-based approach to value, rather than the typical estimation of value of a company. Generally, potential risk arbitrage opportunities can arise from corporate reorganizations or events such as mergers, acquisitions, spin-offs, and leveraged buyouts.


Investors that capitalize on risk arbitrage opportunities do so without actively managing the business of the company and without taking responsibility for its operations. They essentially look for discrepancies in the value of a company that arise from corporate events, such as mergers and acquisitions, aiming to capitalize on these discrepancies by buying and selling stocks at the right times. They may purchase stocks with the expectation that the value will increase and subsequently sell them, thereby producing a risk-appropriate return on their investment.

Established Systems

The investment strategy of risk arbitrage requires two components: a system and a timeline. The system requires the knowledge of how and when to buy and sell stocks for maximum returns. The timeline requires that stock traders remain aware of when a corporate event such as a merger or an acquisition will occur, and when the stock may be traded. Traders must be able to evaluate the probability of whether the merger or acquisition will be approved, and act in a timely manner when the opportunity is at its greatest.

Different Types of Risk Arbitrage

Risk arbitrage involves the simultaneous purchase and sale of undervalued securities, in the hope of profiting from their convergence to their actual value. It requires traders to take some level of risk, as they are betting (in most cases) that a merger between two companies, or the acquisition of one company by another, will close and generate a positive financial return. The different types of risk arbitrage that can be applied in the field are:


Merger/acquisition risk arbitrage involves the buying of one company’s shares in anticipation of the other company taking it over. This can be done by speculating on the potential outcome of a merger or acquisition, and investing in the company that is likely to benefit the most from the transaction. Traders will speculate on the potential of the company's share price to rise and may even invest in the company whose shares are being acquired by the other. When the transaction takes place, the investor's profits from the transaction will be realized when the share prices have risen, and the merged/acquired companies have closed the deal.

Tax-Motivated Risk Arbitrage

Tax-motivated risk arbitrage involves buying the stock of one company and selling the stock of another, when a third company has made a merger offer. By taking advantage of the tax benefits associated with the transaction, investors can benefit financially from the transaction. This type of risk arbitrage involves analyzing the tax consequences of a merger or acquisition and assessing the potential benefits of the transaction. For example, a company facing a large tax liability may launch a merger in order to lessen the burden.

Convertible Arbitrage

Convertible arbitrage involves the purchase of a company's shares and the sale of a convertible bond. This tactic allows traders to take advantage of expected changes in the share price. When the share price rises, the trader can convert the bond into shares, locking in a gain. Also, when the share price falls, traders can make a profit from the convertible bond, as the value of the convertible bond is unrelated to the share price.

Statutory Arbitrage

Statutory arbitrage involves the purchase of a company’s shares and the sale of an option or derivative with the hope of realizing a gain. For example, if the company is facing a large tax bill and needs to raise capital, then the option can be used to generate the funds needed to pay the tax bill. Traders can take advantage of this situation by buying the company’s stock and selling the option. If the company meets or surpasses the financial benchmarks associated with the option, then the traders stand to benefit financially.

Benefits of Risk Arbitrage

Risk arbitrage, sometimes referred to as merger arbitrage, is a form of investing that seeks to take advantage of slight mispricing in a stock due to merger or acquisition activity. This type of investing is attractive to many investors because of its low-risk profile and the potential for tax-free gains. Risk arbitrage can also provide investors with access to high-value opportunities that may otherwise be difficult to access.

Low-Risk Profits

Risk arbitrage offers investors a chance to earn profits with relatively low levels of risk. Due to the nature of merger and acquisition activity, the risk profile of risk arbitrage opportunities is significantly lower than many traditional investment strategies. This makes risk arbitrage attractive to investors who are seeking low-risk opportunities for potential profits.

Potentially Tax-Free Gains

Risk arbitrage can provide investors with a level of tax-free gains. Depending on the laws of the country, the tax implications of each risk arbitrage opportunity can vary widely. For example, in the United States, most gains from risk arbitrage are classified as long-term capital gains, which are subject to lower taxes compared to other investment income.

Access to High-Value Opportunities

Risk arbitrage provides investors with access to high-value opportunities that may otherwise be difficult to access. Many of these opportunities may be otherwise inaccessible to the general public. Additionally, risk arbitrage opportunities are typically short-term and can provide potentially lucrative returns in a short period of time.

Risks Involved with Risk Arbitrage

Risk arbitrage or “arbitrage trading” is an investing strategy that involves profiting from the difference between the price of a security and its true market value. To accomplish this, arbitrageurs attempt to identify profitable opportunities, short sell overvalued securities, and buy undervalued securities. Although this investing strategy is potentially rewarding, it also carries several risks.

Dealer Orientation

One risk of risk arbitrage involves relying on dealers to keep prices accurate. Arbitrageurs need to use their market knowledge to ensure that they are profitable. By understanding the current market dynamics, arbitrageurs attempt to reduce the risks posed by relying on stockbrokers and other intermediaries.

Market Risk

Arbitrageurs also face the risk of having their investments impacted by unpredictable market conditions. Because markets are dynamic, prices can unexpectedly move against an arbitrageur position at any moment. As such, arbitrageurs must be aware of possible adverse events that might affect their performance.

Liquidity Risk

In addition, arbitrageurs face liquidity risk. This means that even though they identify profitable opportunities, then might be unable to purchase or sell securities as needed due to a lack of buyers or sellers. This type of risk is often amplified in smaller and less active markets.

Regulatory Risk

Finally, arbitrageurs must also pay attention to the regulatory environment. Regulatory changes can limit arbitrageurs ability to sell or purchase certain securities, so being aware of laws is important for a successful strategy. As such, risk arbitrageurs must be up to date with regulations related to their area of specialty.

Practical Applications of Risk Arbitrage

Risk arbitrage is a form of investments that relies on the net present value of a deal to generate profits for investors. While the concept is simple, risk arbitrage can provide sophisticated opportunities to those who understand the market and the associated risks. Here are a few of the practical applications of risk arbitrage.

Merger Arbitrage

Merger arbitrage is one of the most popular applications of risk arbitration. It involves identifying upcoming mergers and subsequently buying stocks that reflect the current price of the stock before the merger is completed. As the merger progresses, the price of the stock will go up and the difference between that price and the initial price will represent the risk arbitrage gains.

Tax-Motivated Mergers

Tax-motivated mergers are another type of risk arbitrage that is popular among investors. These mergers are typically structured to take advantage of different tax laws in different jurisdictions. By utilizing these arbitrage opportunities, investors can profit from the differences in the laws, both domestically and overseas.

Convertible Purchase/Shorting

Convertibles are a type of security that can be converted into another security or asset. When investors purchase a convertible, they are essentially taking a 'long' position predicting that the underlying asset or security will appreciate in value. Conversely, when they borrow convertibles from a lender and sell them, they are taking a 'short' position, predicting that the underlying asset will decrease in value. This type of risk arbitrage can produce significant returns for investors who know the market and understand the associated risks.

Professional Advice

Investing in risk arbitrage can be a complex process. If you are considering participating in this type of investment, it is wise to seek the advice of a professional. There are many advantages to working with a professional advisor or investing in a fund, including direct investment, access to professional analysis, and participating in mutual funds.

Direct Investment

Working with a professional advisor can give you the advantage of direct investment. By working with an investment advisor, you will be able to get direct advice on which stocks to buy and when to buy them. In addition, they can provide guidance on the best way to diversify your portfolio to minimize risk. With direct investment, you will have the benefit of personalized attention and advice that can help you make the best decisions for your financial goals.

Access to Professional Analysis

Advisors can also provide access to analysis from a team of experienced professionals. This type of analysis can not only inform decisions about investments but also give insights into the overall economic climate, helping to identify trends and anticipate changes. Professional analysis can also provide insight into the outlook for different sectors, which is important for understanding the potential for risk arbitrage investments.

Participating in Mutual Funds

Advisors can also provide access to mutual funds that specialize in risk arbitrage. These funds may provide the additional advantage of diversification, and may offer access to access to a wider range of investment vehicles and to a larger pool of resources. Mutual funds can also provide the benefit of professional management, which can help to reduce your risk and maximize returns.

Seeking the advice of a professional can be advantageous when considering an investment in risk arbitrage. By working with an advisor, you can benefit from direct advice, access to professional analysis, and the potential of diversifying your investments through mutual funds. A professional advisor can help to ensure that your investments are managed in the best interests of your financial goals.


Risk arbitrage is a type of investment strategy that involves simultaneously buying shares of a target company and selling shares of the bidder company in order to capitalize on large price differences in the same stock. Risk arbitrageurs try to capitalize on news-based events such as a company’s acquisition or merger, as well as stocks that are trading above/below fair value.

There are many benefits to consider when investing in risk arbitrage. One, it provides market participants with the opportunity to make money outside of traditional trading strategies. Two, it’s relatively low risk compared to other forms of investing such as options and futures. Third, it doesn’t require you to be an expert at chart pattern recognition or day trading algorithms. Finally, it’s a great way to capitalize on short-term opportunities that can quickly add up to big returns for patient investors.

For those looking to diversify their investment strategies and capitalize on short-term opportunities, risk arbitrage could be the perfect way to go. By following the news and taking the time to research current market conditions, risk arbitrageurs can take advantage of quick and lucrative opportunities that may not have been available otherwise.

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