What is an ADR?

Introduction

As of today, there are 441 stocks of foreign corporations that trade on U.S. stock exchanges via American Depository Receipts, or "ADRs", with a total market capitalization of $8,750,177,577,907. See our list of ADRs.

An ADR is one way, but not the only way, that a foreign corporation can have its stock trade on a U.S. stock exchange. An ADR is a certificate that evidences an ownership interest in American Depositary Shares ("ADS") which, in turn, represent an interest in the shares of a non-U.S. company that have been deposited with a U.S. bank. The terms ADR and ADS are often used interchangeably by market participants. ADRs are also sometimes referred to by the shortened name of "DR" or depository receipts.

ADRs have been around since 1927. ADRs are issued or sponsored by a U.S. bank. There are four major banks that dominate the market:

Mechanically, the depository bank simply purchases and holds a bulk lot of shares from the foreign corporation, bundles then into groups, and then reissues them on a U.S. stock exchange. An ADR represents a specific number of shares in a foreign corporation. The depository bank sets the ratio of ADRs per home country shares. To avoid having the ADR trade at a low market price, many depository banks will set a ratio greater than one, where one share of the ADR represents more than one share of the foreign security.

The ADR represents ownership in the stock of a foreign corporation. The stock of the foreign corporation may or may not also trade on a stock exchange in the company's home country. Often, the ADR traded on a U.S. stock exchange is the company's only publicly traded security. In particular, many Chinese companies have an ADR traded on a U.S. stock exchange and they do not have their shares anywhere else, as shown below.

Here is a summary of exchange traded ADRs as of right now:

Type of ADRCount
The ADR is the only publicly traded stock201
The stock trades on an exchange somewhere in the world233
Unknown7
Total441

Bank of New York Mellon is one of the four major U.S. banks that issues ADRs. BNY Mellon also prepares several ADR related stock market indexes - see list of BNY Mellon ADR indexes.

The depository banks charge a fee for their custodian services. The depository bank is in charge of holding the ADR, maintaining records, and collecting the dividends paid out the foreign issuer, converting them into US dollars and depositing them into the U.S. investor's account. If dividends are paid out by the ADR then the depository bank deducts the fees from the dividends or they may decide to charge it separately to an ADR holder as a fee. If the ADR does not pay a dividend then the depository bank will charge that fee directly to the brokerage who in turn will charge it to a client’s account. ADR custodian fees vary, so you need to read the ADR's prospectus to understand the exact fees charged.

Country Mix

There are ADRs from companies located around the world. Here is a summary of the ADRs in our database based on the country:

CountryADR countTotal market cap
2$562,637,440
Argentina15$29,049,700,351
Australia13$229,775,077,148
Belgium4$157,411,826,592
Brazil31$570,190,433,555
Cayman Islands1$72,857,802
Chile9$61,077,210,247
China157$1,603,333,681,942
Colombia3$31,834,220,861
Denmark7$168,415,567,636
Finland1$28,263,796,572
France15$298,681,571,302
Germany9$249,043,793,452
Hong Kong5$10,795,070,835
India9$349,880,745,609
Indonesia1$22,328,623,622
Ireland5$67,822,436,610
Israel20$30,612,414,294
Italy3$78,962,028,854
Japan12$855,560,278,202
Luxembourg1$36,072,907,642
Mexico14$131,583,154,686
Norway2$71,566,256,500
Peru3$3,868,500,647
Philippines1$5,753,565,288
Russia5$22,592,115,915
Singapore2$97,272,844,513
South Africa6$33,539,919,723
South Korea9$132,453,295,130
Spain4$140,471,695,488
Sweden2$42,567,945,623
Switzerland6$374,359,541,694
Taiwan8$660,161,924,257
The Netherlands9$395,615,485,712
Turkey1$4,092,000,000
United Arab Emirates1$2,330,360,000
United Kingdom45$1,752,202,092,163

Note the large number of ADRs from companies located in China. As explained in our article about China's stock market, China's unique political and economic environment has encouraged Chinese companies to have their stocks traded outside of China, either in Hong Kong or in the U.S.

As explained in our article about global stock markets, countries around the world are classified into one of three buckets based on the sophistication of their financial system and economy. Here is a summary of the ADRs in our database based on the country classification:

CountryADR countTotal market cap
Developed markets174$5,217,925,925,962
Emerging markets250$3,502,639,314,154
Frontier markets15$29,049,700,351
Unknown2$562,637,440

How do ADRs compare to U.S. common stocks?

Let's look at some analysis of how the ADRs compare to U.S. common stocks. First, let's look at a breakout by sector. On our website, we use the GICS sector classification system to classify stocks into sectors. Let's look at the breakout of ADRs by GISC sector:

U.S. Common StocksADRs
GISC Sector# of StocksMarket cap% # of StocksMarket cap%
Communication Services167$6,774,933,204,36513.5%43$645,956,191,3577.4%
Consumer Discretionary444$6,135,586,566,10512.2%59$1,561,232,161,55917.8%
Consumer Staples145$2,964,823,701,1135.9%23$617,763,854,4977.1%
Energy174$1,259,757,699,6062.5%17$834,115,537,8989.5%
Financials1,192$6,651,163,230,67913.3%59$1,299,155,170,61514.8%
Health Care937$6,184,435,462,80212.3%95$1,031,382,223,81811.8%
Industrials511$4,591,922,762,9149.2%22$258,336,987,9433.0%
Information Technology538$11,442,492,763,78922.8%67$1,683,445,239,54619.2%
Materials155$1,360,207,480,5142.7%29$646,441,524,1677.4%
Real Estate224$1,472,694,023,4632.9%9$43,588,639,0810.5%
Unknown118$137,132,275,6250.3%5$10,591,326,3960.1%
Utilities76$1,116,071,678,7212.2%13$118,168,721,0301.4%
Total4,681$50,091,220,849,696100% 441$8,750,177,577,907100%

When we say "U.S. common stocks" in this article, we are talking about all common stocks, REITs and mortgage REITs of U.S. companies that trade on the U.S. stock market. So that excludes MLPs, preferred stocks, ADRs, and investment funds, and the common stocks of non-US companies that trade on the U.S. stock market.

Let's also look at the ADRs based on the size categories we use on our website:

ADRsU.S. common stocks
Size Category# of StocksMarket cap% # of StocksMarket cap%
Large cap134$8,238,937,773,62694.2%673$43,953,455,851,67187.7%
Mid cap88$408,159,488,4604.7%1,042$4,708,199,025,2909.4%
Small cap101$87,313,880,4381.0%1,479$1,238,552,671,0432.5%
Micro cap118$15,766,435,3830.2%1,411$191,013,301,6920.4%
Unknown0$00.0%76$00.0%
Total441$8,750,177,577,907100% 4,681$50,091,220,849,696100%

As explained in our article size categories, there is no standard definition of what makes up a "large cap" stock. On our website, we use a cutoff of $10 billion to determine a large cap stock. This is a just a widely used rule of thumb that we have also chosen to use. Similarly, a "mid cap" stock under our definition is a stock with a market capitalization between $2 billion and $10 billion.

Notice that there are a lot of "large cap" ADRs.

ADRs that trade OTC

As of today, there are 549 ADRs in our database that trade on the U.S. over-the-counter ("OTC") market, , with a total market capitalization of $14,457,383,764,058. See our list of OTC ADRs. Our database does not currently contain all OTC ADRs but rather the most actively traded OTC ADRs and OTC ADRs that are owned by U.S. ETFs.

There are two types of ADRs: sponsored and unsponsored. ADRs that are traded on U.S. stock exchanges are "sponsored" by the foreign corporation - the foreign corporation controls the ADR and is subject to SEC reporting requirements.

An unsponsored ADR is an ADR issued by a depositary bank without the involvement or participation - or even the consent - of the foreign issuer whose stock underlies the ADR. Unsponsored ADRs are usually established by depositary banks in response to investor demand. Shareholder benefits and voting rights may not be extended to the holders of these particular securities. Unsponsored ADRs trade over the counter, or "OTC", rather than on an exchange.

There are so many ADRs that are traded OTC, for two reasons:

Global Depository Receipts, or GDRs

The concept of a depository receipt exists all over the world. The term "global depository receipt" is generally used to refer to depository receipts that are trading on stock exchanges around the world, exclusive of ADRs traded on U.S. stock exchanges.

GDRs are traded on exchanges all over the world, but they are particularly popular on the London Stock Exchange. So many people tend to equate a GDR with a security traded on the London Stock Exchange, but they can be traded anywhere.

Other Non-US Companies That Trade On US Exchanges

The ADR system is not the only way that a non-US company can trade on a U.S. stock exchange. We currently have in our database 1547 stocks of non-US companies that trade on a U.S. stock exchange, excluding ADRs.

Besides ADRs, there are two other ways that a non-US company can trade on a U.S. stock exchange:

Cross-listing is especially popular with Canadian companies, many of whom cross-list their shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange and the U.S. stock market. We have in our database 468 Canadian companies that trade on a U.S. stock exchange that are cross-listed shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange. See list of Canadian companies that trade on US exchanges.

Preferred stocks

The ADR mechanism is also used by U.S. corporations who want to issue preferred stock. See our article what is a preferred stock?


All data is a live query from our database. The wording was last updated: 03/21/2021.

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