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Underwriting is the way business customers are assessed by investment houses for access to either equity or debt capital.
This is a way of placing a newly issued security, such as stocks or bonds, with investors. A syndicate of banks (the lead-managers) underwrite the transaction, which means they have taken on the risk of distributing the securities. Should they not be able to find enough investors, they will have to hold some securities themselves. Underwriters make their income from the price difference (the "underwriting spread") between the price they pay the issuer and what they collect from investors or from broker-dealers who buy portions of the offering.