Why African investors use Depositary Receipts?

Many foreign investors have investments in Africa but hold them in international custody in London or New York and perhaps wish to trade them on international securities markets such as London Stock Exchange or New York’s NYSE Euronext. They would choose to hold their equities in the form of Depositary Receipts, usually known as “American” (ADRs) if issued in the US, “Global” (GDRs) in London and there are DRs in several other countries including South Africa (SADRs).
The idea is that shares listed on an international exchange are transferred to a strong financial institution, who then issues a DR security which can be more easily traded on an international exchange or over-the-counter (OTC) market. BNY Mellon dominates the field but other issuers include JP Morgan Chase, Citi and Deutsche Bank. The total value of DRs traded in 2010 worldwide was $3.5 trillion, up 30% on 2009, and 89% of this trading was in the US.
Michael Cole-Fontayn, CEO of BNY Mellon Depositary Receipts (www.bnymellon.com), explained to African Capital Markets News that when institutional investors request, either for a capital raising or for more trading, BNY Mellon approaches the company and other stakeholders to set up a DR programme, usually under English or New York law. The details of the new DR security, including its currency, can be adapted to suit the international investors.
BNY Mellon holds the underlying security in the local market through a custodian, usually Standard Bank, while the newly issued DR clears and settles through the usual international clearing houses. An investor who has bought the shares in the local market can also approach BNY Mellon to convert them into DRs, which are often cheaper to own and easier to trade and settle.
When an investor holding a DR wishes to sell, he may first look for an international buyer for the DR. If not, his broker can find a buyer in the home market, then BNY Mellon would cancel the DR and deliver the shares for settlement in the local market. This can be done overnight if there is a time difference, but cancellation was suspended for Egyptian DRs when the Egyptian Exchange closed for two months in January-March 2011.
BNY Mellon currently offers DRs in shares in South African, Nigerian and Egyptian companies and offers indices based on the DRs. South Africa’s Anglogold Ashanti raised $705m through issuing DRs in New York in September 2010. Egypt’s Orascom Construction and Remco Tourism Villages created DR programmes for the US OTC markets, while Orascom Telecom traded $1.8bn of DRs on the LSE’s International Order Book (IOB) market. Four African companies – Malawi’s Press Corp, two Nigerian Banks and media house Naspers of South Africa – have GDRs listed on the LSE’s Main/Professional Securities Market.
Mary Gormley, Vice President at BNY Mellon Depositary Receipts, said that one big advantage was the speed of clearing and settlement and reduced costs. For instance, Oando plc, listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange then cross-listed on the JSE in 2005. Movements between share registers could take 40 days, while equivalent changes using the DR system would be much quicker. She believes the DR programme will grow, with growth businesses in Kenya and Ghana interested and Senegal, Togo and Zimbabwe also considering it: “DRs come out of a need for capital raising.”

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