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Referring to a conditional offer for a new security, subject to the security actually being issued. Before a new issue, underwriters canvass potential investors, who may or may not book an order to buy a portion the new issue. Orders made are said to be effective "when issued" because they may not be completed, especially if the offering is cancelled. Less formally, orders when issued are referred to as orders "with ice" or orders "when distributed."
Used on the consolidated tape to indicate that a stock is trading on a when-distributed basis: GY.WD 52.
Used in stock and bond transaction tables in newspapers to indicate that a security is trading on a when-distributed basis: ColgP wd.