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Is there a difference between these two terms, either in terms of definition or connotation? Context is in a business selling an asset or business line. Most of the time I hear divestment, but once in a while someone refers to a divestiture.

EDIT:

When you look it up, (e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divestment), it just says they're the same word. I'm looking for more than a simple Google search would provide.

EDIT 2:

Investopedia says the same thing, that they're the same: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/divestment.asp

Perhaps this means that they are the exact same, but I feel a slightly different connotation between the two that I can't put my finger on.

  • What did you find when you looked the words up in a couple of dictionaries? Please edit in the results of your research. – Andrew Leach Aug 6 '14 at 14:09
  • Done, there ya go! – YPCrumble Aug 6 '14 at 14:11
  • That was Wikipedia. How about some dictionaries? Including a specialist business dictionary? Investing in a question produces quality answers. – Andrew Leach Aug 6 '14 at 14:13
  • There ya go again! All the dictionaries say the same thing really. Perhaps that means they are the same but that is my ingoing hypothesis I'm trying to disprove. – YPCrumble Aug 6 '14 at 14:22
  • Ngram shows a wider use of 'divestiture' vs 'divestment'. And don't forget 'disinvestment' t.answers.com/answers/#!/entry/… – user66974 Aug 6 '14 at 14:46
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Business Dictionary has subtly different definitions:

divestment

  1. Realizing the market value of an asset by selling, liquidating, or exchanging it. Opposite of investment.
  2. Sale of all or majority of voting stock (voting shares) of a firm.

divestiture

Selling of, or otherwise disposal of, a firm's assets to achieve a desired objective, such as greater liquidity or reduced debt burden. In accounting, divestiture transactions are recorded as a one time, non-recurring gain or loss.

If you sell an asset such as stock in another firm to realise that investment, that's a divestment of that asset.

A firm can divest itself of its own assets to raise funds for the firm, and this is divestiture. While stock in other companies might be an asset, I'd take divestiture to refer to fixed assets, and use divestment for more liquid assets or short-term investments.

But the meanings are so close as to be functionally identical.

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Depending on where you live, the term divestment or disinvestment may have stronger political overtones to you than divestiture does. I had long been vaguely familiar with the term divestiture, but I don't remember having encountered divestment until the 1980s, when (in Berkeley, where my wife was attending graduate school) a protest movement arose over the University of California's investments in companies doing business in South Africa.

According to a Wikipedia article on the topic, the U.S. campaign against business investment in South Africa began in earnest with the promulgation in 1977 of the Sulllivan Principles and wound down in late 1989 simultaneously with the institutional demise of South Africa's apartheid system.

The popular term in Berkeley for the policy that the protesters wanted the university's regents to adopt was divestment; protesters in some other locales used the same term in formulating their demands. Elsewhere, I believe, the preferred term was disinvestment, and in some places, though less commonly, divestiture appears to have been used.

To see what sort of effect this popular movement had on the relative frequency of the terms divestment, disinvestment, and divestiture, I first set up an Ngram chart for the three words for the period from 1970 to 2008. In the chart divestment is the red line, disinvestment is the blue line, and divestiture is the green line:

Next, I added the phrase "in South Africa" to each term, using the same time period as before. Here, divestment in South Africa is the red line, disinvestment in South Africa is the blue line, and divestiture in South Africa is the green line:

As you can see, during the heyday of the movement (roughly 1981 to 1994), use of divestment and disinvestment in the context of South Africa shot up—and then declined just as rapidly—while divestiture remained the most common term overall (when context was left out of account).

So even though divestment, disinvestment, and divestiture may objectively have interchangeable definitions, I suspect that the political connotations of divestment and disinvestment from the 1980s continue to color those terms in the minds of at least some English speakers.

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