British Petroleum has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons and as you can see from Chart 1 its share price is down over 40% this year. For good reason too, the oil spill is doing terrible damage to the affected areas of ocean and coast line and BP will be footing the bill for years to come. No doubt some of our readers may be feeling/seeing these affects first hand. I’m sure I speak for all our readers and contributors when I say our thoughts are with you.
Chart 1 - BP
click to enlarge
One question we have seen recently as a result of this is, “how can a company be on more than one exchange?” In this case the NYSE and LSE. Well this is done via Depository Receipts or Interests that allow a stock to be traded on another exchange. From the purchaser’s point of view, they allow exposure to a foreign stock without having to deal with currency transfers or the higher fees normally applied to buying shares from other countries.
The exact workings vary from country to country, but often the holder of these securities may choose to convert them to actual shares at some point in the future. In this manner they are similar to options or futures, but without the leverage and time premium/cost of carry because there is no expiry date. While often they aren’t given voting rights, depository receipt/interest holders typically participate in most other corporate actions like rights issues, bonus issues and dividends.
For companies from other countries (like China, UK and Australia) wanting a listing in the United States, the US listed shares are called American Depository Receipts or ADRs. This can be seen in the top right hand corner of Chart 1, where you can also note that each ADR is worth 6 ordinary BP shares in the UK. Other examples in include ANZ - Australia, BHP - Australia, Rio Tinto (RTP) - Australia, Vodafone - UK (VOD: NASD), Nokia – Finland (NOK) and PetroChina - China (PTR). In all examples, the words ADR can be seen in HUBB products in the security name.
In Australia the term CDI is used, which stands for Chess Depository Interest. Chess being the system used by the Australian Stock Exchange to transfer legal title. As foreign stocks cannot be traded on Chess directly, a depository interest is used instead. Like an ADR, a CDI gives the holder the right to convert to the actual foreign security at a later date. As a side note, CDI is actually the general term referring to both equity and debt products, with equity products known specifically as CUFs or Chess Units of Foreign Securities.
An example of a CDI on the ASX is News Corporation who a few years ago moved its operations to the US (NWS: NASD). News Corporation now has a CDI on the ASX also under the symbol NWS shown below in Chart 2.
Chart 2 – NWS:ASX
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Many stock exchanges around the world offer these securities, other examples include Chinese Depository Receipts, International Depository Receipts, Global Depositary Receipts and simply Depository Receipts/Interests in the UK.
While it cannot be said that depository products remove currency risk – they are still based on a foreign stock – in most cases they do offer a far cheaper and simpler method of owning international stocks. Another benefit is often you will be better protected by financial regulations in your own country with regard to the brokers/financial institutions that you deal with than you would be overseas.
With products like these and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), it has never been easier or cheaper for investors to build a well diversified portfolio.