JPMorgan Caps Shares of Alerian MLP ETN

Obviously, the big news from JPMorgan Chase this week was Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon apologizing to the Senate Banking Committee for his firm’s recent multibillion-dollar trading loss. And while not nearly as momentous as the Dimon hearing, JPMorgan also released some highly unusual news to ETF Land.

The firm on Thursday put a limit on the number of shares it’s willing to create for its Alerian MLP Index ETN (AMJ), essentially making the exchange traded note act like a closed-end fund. JPMorgan capped maximum issuance of shares at 129 million exchange traded notes. As of June 13, JPMorgan Chase had issued 117.95 million ETNs with an aggregate market capitalization of $4.29 billion based on the $36.39 closing price.

Limiting the number of shares means that the ETN will not allow creation units once that number is met. This turns the ETN from an open-end investment vehicle into one that acts like a closed-end fund. This occurs because the arbitrage mechanism that allows market makers to create or sell shares to capture the difference between the indicative value and the price at which the share trades is no longer available. Unable to create shares, market makers are less likely to take on the risk of shorting the shares. Thus, the price of the ETN may trade at a premium or discount to its indicated value depending on the demand for the notes. Of course, if shares are redeemed, the ETN can later create more shares until the limit is hit again.

MLPs, or master limited partnerships, are limited partnerships that invest in natural resources, or companies that provide services such as pipeline companies that transport oil or natural gas. These companies offer large dividends and have been very popular since the fiscal crisis. Over the past 18 months assets in exchange traded products that hold MLPs has grown from nearly nothing to about $7.55 billion. Nearly all of that inflow sits in two products, AMJ, which has $4.2 billion in asset under management, and the ALPS Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP), with $3.25 billion.

“When AMJ reaches the maximum threshold, we will closely monitor the availability of AMJ notes available in stock loan as well as any premium in the funds pricing on the secondary market,” said Chris Hempstead, director of ETF execution services at Wallach Beth Capital. “This could bode well in the short term for existing holders of AMJ as the fund will likely trade at a premium once the creation facility is shut down. Early investors would not have expected this so it’s a win for them. That being said, once this happens I expect investors looking at MLP ETPs will be drawn away from the AMJ ETN and towards [other ETNS].”

Competing ETNs include the ALPS product as well as recent launches such as the Yorkville High Income MLP ETF (YMLP), with just $37 million in assets, and the Global X MLP ETF (MLPA), which has only $5 million.

Hempstead says because these ETNs will continue issue creation units, they will continue to trade close to their indicative values. This will make them more attractive investments as AMJ’s share price diverts from its indicative value.

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