Business Development Company

Updated on March 20, 2024
Article byKumar Rahul
Edited byKumar Rahul
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

What Is A Business Development Company (BDC)?

A business development company (BDC) is a publicly traded investment company in the United States that invests in small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). It provides a way for retail investors to gain exposure to the potential growth of small and medium-sized enterprises while providing these companies with the capital needed to grow and thrive.

Business Development Company

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It helps to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and foster innovation. Additionally, BDCs provide a way for retail investors to invest in these businesses. This, in turn, earns attractive returns while diversifying their portfolios. Another benefit of BDCs is their ability to invest in various securities. It includes debt and equity, allowing them to tailor their investments to the specific needs of the businesses they support.

Key Takeaways

  • Business development companies invest primarily in small and medium-sized debt and equity securities.
  • These are under the regulation of the Securities and Exchange Commission and must comply with various reporting and disclosure requirements.
  • These offer investors the opportunity to invest in a diversified portfolio of private companies. This provides exposure to high-growth sectors and potentially attractive returns.
  • They ask to distribute at least 90% of taxable income to shareholders as dividends. It provides a steady income stream for investors.

Business Development Company Explained

A business development company (BDC) is an investment company specializing in investing in small and medium-sized businesses. The importance of business development companies lies in their ability to provide financing to SMBs. They may otherwise need help to obtain funding from traditional sources such as banks. It is essential because small and medium-sized businesses are often the engines of economic growth, driving job creation and innovation in many industries.

This flexibility can be particularly useful in financing SMBs with unique financing needs or not qualifying for traditional bank loans.

In summary, business development companies are essential to the investment landscape because they allow retail investors to invest in SMBs and earn attractive returns while helping these businesses grow and thrive. Additionally, BDCs can drive economic growth, job creation, and innovation in many industries.

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Let us understand it in the following ways.

Example #1

Suppose a small business development company called “Amacon Development Company” raises $100 million from retail investors. It uses that capital to invest in a portfolio of small and medium-sized businesses. These businesses might include a software start-up, a manufacturer of renewable energy products, and a local restaurant chain. Over time, these businesses grow and become more profitable, which increases the value of the company’s portfolio. Amacon Development Company can then distribute these profits to its shareholders as dividends, providing investors with attractive returns while supporting the growth of the businesses it has invested in.

Example #2

A real-world example of a private business development company is Ares Capital Corporation, one of the largest BDCs in the United States. Ares Capital Corporation invests in various businesses, including healthcare providers, technology companies, and manufacturers.

In 2020, Ares Capital Corporation provided $4.4 billion in financing to small and medium-sized enterprises, which helped these companies to weather the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, Ares Capital Corporation has provided funding to companies such as Guitar Center and J. Crew, demonstrating the critical role that BDCs can play in providing capital to businesses that may not qualify for traditional bank loans.

Tax Treatment

Business Development Companies’ tax treatment differs from other investment companies, like mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Business development company requirements ask to distribute at least 90% of their taxable income to their shareholders as dividends. This has significant tax implications for investors.

First, the dividends paid by BDCs are typically taxed as ordinary income. This means they are subject to higher tax rates than qualified dividends or long-term capital gains.

Second, BDCs invest in a mix of debt and equity securities. As a result, they may generate a combination of taxable income like interest income, dividend income, capital gains, etc. This can make it difficult for investors to predict the tax consequences of investing in a BDC.

Third, BDCs may generate unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) for tax-exempt investors like individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or non-profit organizations. UBTI corresponds to unrelated business income tax, which can reduce the after-tax returns of tax-exempt investors.

Despite these potential tax disadvantages, BDCs may still be attractive to some investors. This is because of their potential for higher dividend yields and their ability to provide exposure to small and medium-sized businesses.


Like any investment, Business development companies (BDCs) carry some risk. Here are some of the critical risks of investing in BDCs:

  1. Credit risk: It typically invests in debt securities of small and medium-sized businesses with lower credit ratings or industries more prone to economic downturns. These investments carry a higher risk of default or bankruptcy, which could result in a decline in the value of the BDC’s portfolio and a reduction in dividend payments.
  2. Interest rate risk: It invests in a mix of fixed and variable rate debt securities, which can expose them to interest rate risk. If interest rates rise, the cost of the BDC’s fixed-rate securities may decline, resulting in a decline in the value of the BDC’s portfolio.
  3. Liquidity risk: Many of the investments made by BDCs are in private companies that are not traded on public markets, which can make it challenging to sell these investments if the BDC needs to raise cash quickly.
  4. Regulatory risk: It is subject to regulation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and must comply with a range of reporting and disclosure requirements. Changes in rules or new regulatory requirements could increase compliance costs and reduce the returns of the BDC.
  5. Market risk: It invests in various industries and sectors, which can expose them to market risk. Changes in economic conditions or market sentiment can lead to declines in the value of the BDC’s portfolio.
  6. Distribution risk: It must distribute at least 90% of its taxable income as dividends. Suppose the BDC needs to generate more revenue. In that case, it may have to reduce its dividend payments or dip into its capital to maintain its distribution, which could result in a decline in the value of the BDC’s shares.

Business Development Company vs Private Equity

Business development companies and private equity (PE) funds are different investment vehicles that may appeal to different kinds of investors based on their investment goals, risk tolerance, and tax situation.

Some key differences between Business Development Companies (BDCs) and Private Equity (PE):

  1. Legal structure: Business development companies are investment companies that are publicly traded and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). PE funds are typically structured as limited partnerships or limited liability companies (LLCs) and are not publicly traded.
  2. Investment focus: Business development companies invest primarily in debt and equity securities of small and medium-sized businesses, while PE funds typically invest in private companies that are not publicly traded. PE funds may also invest in real estate or other assets.
  3. Risk profile: Business development companies generally have a lower risk profile than PE funds because they invest in a mix of debt and equity securities, which can provide some level of diversification. On the other hand, PE funds typically make concentrated investments in individual companies, which can be riskier.
  4. Investment size: Business development companies may invest in companies with market capitalizations as low as $250 million. PE funds typically focus on larger companies with market capitalizations in the billions of dollars.
  5. Investment horizon: Business development companies generally have a shorter investment horizon than PE funds, typically holding investments for three to five years. PE funds may hold assets for extended periods, often seven to ten years or more.
  6. Exit strategies: Business development companies typically exit their investments through the sale or merger of the portfolio companies. At the same time, PE funds may consider initial public offerings (IPOs) or other exit strategies.
  7. Management fees: Business development companies typically charge lower management fees than PE funds, which can make them a more cost-effective investment option.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How are BDCs regulated?

Business development companies are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission and must comply with various reporting and disclosure requirements.

Are business development companies a good investment?

Business development companies may be a good investment option for investors comfortable with some level of risk and looking for exposure to private companies. However, they may only be suitable for some investors.

Can BDCs be purchased on major stock exchanges?

Yes, Business development companies can be purchased on major stock exchanges or through brokerage accounts, making them accessible to many investors.

How do BDCs generate income for investors?

Business development companies generate income for investors through the interest and dividends they earn on their investments, typically distributed to shareholders as dividends.

This article has been a guide to what is Business Development Company. We compare it with private equity and explain its tax treatment, and examples. You may also find some useful articles here –