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The simple explanation is that the Y shares are ADRs with depositary institutions holding the local shares. These can be sponsored ADRs (the company is supporting the listing) or unsponsored. As these are ADRs an ADR ratio (x number of local shares per ADR) often comes into play.

The F shares are listings made by market makers where the market maker goes and purchases the actual shares on the primary exchange for the company. There is no ADR ratio here, it is always 1-to-1. Also since these shares aren't held in a custodial account they generally can't be purchased on margin. These are often very low volume listings, but are a good option if you're looking to get into a specific foreign company and don't have the $5,000 to $10,000 to invest to make the commissions and costs of trading on a foreign exchange worth it.

In the case where a company has both a Y and a F listing, the ADRs (Y listings) will have much higher volume than the F listings.

Best,

Nathan
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