France's Societe Generale said it plans to issue American depositary receipts, a security increasingly used by foreign banks to boost their investment profiles in the United States.
The bank plans an ADR issue in July that will be sponsored by Bank of New York Co., a spokeswoman for Societe Generale in New York confirmed.
Societe Generale has requested approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue up to 50 million ADRs at a rate of five ADRs per one common share.
The ADRs will be bought and sold through stock brokers and traded over the counter.
Access for U.S. Investors
Analysts said the program will make it easier for those U.S. institutional investors that are restricted to dollar-denominated investments to purchase shares of Societe Generale.
"The idea is to make investment a bit more accessible to U.S. institutions," said Sheila Garrard, a banking analyst with Lehman Brothers in London.
Many foreign banks prefer ADRs to a full-fiedged listing on a stock exchange. ADRs enable them to raise their profile among U.S. investors without having to meet stringent SEC disclosure requirements entailed by a full listing.
Foreign banks can use the ADRs to raise fresh capital or to convert outstanding shares into ADRs.
Bank of New York, J.P. Morgan & Co., and Citicorp are among the biggest sponsors of ADR programs.
Sponsors handle dividend payouts, notifications, and processing and act as intermediaries between the brokers and investors. They frequently also serve as custodians through affiliates.
The ADRs are quoted in dollars but are adjusted daily to reflect changes in foreign exchange and home stock market prices.
The Societe Generale ADR program will be the second that Bank of New York has brought to market recently for a foreign bank.
The bank established an ADR program for CS Holding, parent of Credit Suisse, in April.
Foreign banks and other companies have steadily increased ADR issuance in recent years.
According to estimates by Citicorp, ADR trading on the New York and American stock exchanges and over the counter totaled $123 billion last year, versus $91 billion in 1991.
ADRs accounted for 4.6% of the value of all stocks traded on the New York and American exchanges and over the counter in 1992, up from 2% in 1985 and 4% in 1991.
About 50 foreign banks trade in the United States in ADR form. Among them are Germany's Dresdner Bank, France's Compagnie de Suez, Japan's Mitsubishi Bank Ltd., Royal Bank of Scotland, Allied Irish Banks PLC, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Spain's Banco de Galicia, Singapore's United Overseas Bank, and Mexico's Grupo Financiero Bancomer.
Societe Generale is France's fourth largest bank, with $260 billion in assets at yearend.
The bank's share price has dropped from a high of $120 at the end of February to $107 at the close Thursday on the Paris exchange.