What Is a Primary Listing?

A primary listing is the main stock exchange where a publicly traded company's stock is bought and sold. For companies having a prestigious primary listing, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or Nasdaq, this lends credibility to the stock and makes investors more likely to purchase its shares.

In addition to its primary listing, a stock may also trade on other exchanges with secondary listings. A company might want to do this to increase its liquidity and investor reach.

Key Takeaways

  • A primary listing refers to the exchange on which a company's shares first appeared, primarily via an IPO.
  • A primary listing on a prominent exchange often signals that the issuer's securities are high-quality and that the issuer is reputable.
  • In order to gain a primary listing, the issuing company must first meet a set of strict financial and regulatory criteria.
  • Once shares have been listed on an exchange, they may be cross-listed elsewhere to increase liquidity and interest in the shares.

Understanding Primary Listings

Stocks first become available on an exchange as part of a primary listing after a company conducts its initial public offering (IPO). In an IPO, a company prices and sells shares to an initial set of public shareholders. After the IPO "floats" these shares into the hands of public shareholders, these shares can begin to be bought and sold on a listed exchange, through the secondary market.

Listing requirements comprise the various criteria and minimum standards established by stock exchanges, such as the New York Stock Exchange, to allow membership in the exchange. Only if an exchange's listing requirements are met can a company list shares for trading.

Companies that do not meet the listing requirements may still be able to offer their shares for trading over-the-counter (OTC).


For example, Snap Inc. (SNAP), the parent company of the popular Snapchat social media app, was one of the highest-anticipated IPOs of 2017. It decided that it would list its IPO on the NYSE and began trading to the public on March 2, 2017. The NYSE lists over 2,400 companies, including many components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, with a total market cap in the tens of trillions of dollars.

Dual Listing

In order to be listed on more than one exchange, a practice called "dual listing" or "cross-listing," the company must meet the requirements to be listed on the other exchange(s), such as company size and liquidity of shares.

Dual Listing is attractive to many non-U.S. companies because of the depth of the capital markets in the U.S., the world’s biggest economy. Data indicate that companies tend to list in countries that have a similar culture or share a common language with their native jurisdiction. For example, most of the biggest Canadian companies are also listed on U.S. exchanges.

A foreign company may seek an ordinary listing, the most prestigious type of listing, on an exchange such as the NYSE or NASDAQ, but the requirements to do so are stringent. In addition to meeting the exchange’s listing criteria, the foreign company also has to satisfy U.S. regulatory requirements, restate its financials, and arrange for clearing and settlement of its trades. For example, cross-listing would allow a multinational corporation to trade not just on the NYSE, but also on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). If the company does not continually meet an exchange's listing requirements, it will be delisted from that exchange.

A popular form of dual listing for many leading non-U.S. companies is through American Depositary Receipts (ADRs). An ADR represents the foreign shares of the company held in trust by a custodian bank in the company’s home country and carries the same rights of the shares.

Advantages of Being Listed on an Exchange

Beyond prestige, there are a number of advantages to a company when its shares are listed publicly on an exchange.

Some of these may include:

  • The acquisition of other companies can include the use of equity instead of just cash.
  • The exposure of being listed could attract the attention of influential investors, hedge funds, mutual funds, and institutional traders.
  • The ability to raise funds through the issuance of additional offerings of stock can be a benefit.
  • An enhanced ability to attract and better compensate employees is another advantage.
  • A reduction in the costs of obtaining capital through loans can give an advantage.