Tag Archives: Barclays

Claymore Cashes Out

It looks like the rumors were true.

For about year, rumors swirled around that ETF firm Claymore Securities had put itself up for sale. Well, it finally found a buyer. Guggenheim Partner, a privately held institutional money manager, on Friday agreed to acquire the entire Claymore Group. The Lisle, Ill., company includes the ETF firm Claymore Securities, as well as Claymore Advisors and Claymore Investments in Canada. All will become wholly owned subsidiaries of Guggenheim Partners. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal is expected to close at the end of the third quarter.

The deal gives Guggenheim, an institutional financial services firm with more than $100 billion in assets, its first retail operation. According to the National Stock Exchange, as of June 30, Claymore was the 13th-largest U.S. ETF provider, with 35 ETFs and more than $1.6 billion in assets under management. With more than $740 million in assets, its largest fund is the Claymore/BNY BRIC ETF (EEB)

In 2001 Claymore began as a creator of unit investment trusts (UITs) and closed-end funds. It began selling ETFs in 2006. At the end of the second quarter, all the Claymore entities combined managed $12.9 billion in assets, with more than $2 billion in Canada.

For more than a year, rumors have abounded that Dave Hooten, the Claymore Group chairman and chief executive, was looking to cash out of the firm he created, in a fashion similar to his old friend and ETF rival, Bruce Bond, the founder of PowerShares. In 2006, mutual fund giant Invesco bought PowerShares for $100 million and the possibility of contingency payments.

Claymore created some of the most original ETFs in the industry, such as the Claymore/KLD Sudan Free Large-Cap Core, the Claymore/Clear Global Vaccine Index and the Claymore/NYSE Arca Airline ETF (FAA). But many funds had a hard time acquiring assets because of their niche appeal. Claymore became the first ETF firm to close funds when it shut the Sudan and Vaccine funds along with nine others in February 2008.

Most ETFs are index funds. And Claymore has struggled because of the indexes its funds track. Unable to link up with a major index provider and working in an industry that makes it difficult for two funds to track the same index, Claymore’s basic large-cap, small-cap, value and growth funds failed to attract a huge audience. Claymore’s biggest index providers are Zacks and BNY/Mellon Bank.

While the Claymore deal comes on the heels of Blackrock’s purchase of iShares, Barclays ETF company, the trend isn’t obvious. Barclays, a giant British bank, was forced to sell its market-leading ETF firm, a huge moneymaker, in order to avoid a British government takeover due to depleted cash reserves from the financial crisis. While Claymore didn’t give a reason, a few come to mind.

1) The current market environment has hurt all fund companies. Over the past year, many investors pulled out cash and remain fearful of putting money back in the market.

2) The ETF business has been a struggle for all small independent firms. Unable to latch onto a major index provider, all the independent firms, like Claymore, have needed to create niche products. And while some have been great ideas, they nonetheless have had to work harder to attract attention to these less than obvious portfolio ideas. In a market full of fear, investors don’t want to invest in offbeat ideas. They tend to gravitate to conservative and well-known indexes. Many small ETF firms have gone out of business over the past two years.

3) In light of the combination of the above reasons, I think the upper management of Claymore wanted to cash out while their firm still had a good reputation and a sizeable amount of assets.

What this all means for investors remains unclear.

BGi’s Diamond Scores $36.5 Million; Vanguard Investors Pissed Off

Here’s a round-up of second day stories about the Blackrock purchase of BGI.

The Wall Street Journal says more than 400 top executives at Barclays will walk away from the deal pocketing a total of $630.3 million. It seems there was some sort of unusual management incentive plan in place at BGI that would have started to expire in 2010. They needed to do something quick to cash out. Barclays President Robert Diamond alone will walk away with $36.5 million.

WSJ’s Jason Zweig reports that Vanguard’s investors are furious with the mutual fund/ETF company for even making a bid on iShares. Zweig says this could have been a good move for Vanguard and I agree. Already the No. 3 ETF provider, Vanguard could have become the market leader. More important, Vanguard would have probably cut the expense ratios on the ETFs, which could have brought in even more investors. Few people realize that Vanguard doesn’t have an ETF to partner with its S&P 500 fund. Vanguard came to ETFs late in the game and wanted to make an ETF for its flagship index fund. However, S&P had already given an exclusive license to BGI for the iShares S&P 500 Index (IVV).This would have given Vanguard the S&P 500 ETF they’ve always wanted. Also, S&P sued Vanguard over basing the ETF on the index without giving S&P any additional licensing money That full story is in ETFs for the Long Run.

The Financial Times says Larry Fink, Blackrock’s CEO, has been trying to buy BGI for eight years, and capitalized on the financial crisis to make his dream come true.

Reuters’ Svea Herbst-Bayliss suggests the BGI deal will spark a buying spree as envious rivals figure out how to compete. Bank of New York Mellon (does that taste as good as a honeydew melon?) is expected to be the next buyer. BNY already plays a big part in the ETF industry as a trustee and custodian of many funds. BNY is the trustee and administrator of the second ETF, the MidCap SPDR (MDY).

DealJournal’s Michael Corkery says besides CVC, the big loser is Goldman Sachs, which advised CVC.

Jim Wiandt of IndexUniverse.com says by using an ETF company to create the largest asset manager in the world is a huge boost for the ETF industry and proves how big basis-point-linked passive assets have gotten. He asks a lot of questions, but doesn’t give any anawers. Questions like will Blackrock keep the ETF expense ratios low and what does this mean for the active ETFs?

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them.

Blackrock Buys BGI for $13.5 Billion

In a deal sure to create major changes in the ETF industry, asset-management giant Blackrock agreed to buy Barclays Global Investors (BGI) from Barclays PLC for $13.5 billion late Thursday.

BGI, which coined the term exchange-traded fund, has been the industry’s market leader since the emergence of its iShares family of ETFs in 2000. It remains the industry leader with more funds than any other ETF sponsor and a little less than 50% market share.

With more than $2.7 trillion in assets under management, The Wall Street Journal says this creates a “money-management titan twice the size of its closest competitor,” such as State Street, another ETF provider, and mutual fund giant Fidelity Investments.

The most interesting tidbit comes out of The New York Times. The Times reports Barclays’ president Robert Diamond had first discussed a potential deal with BlackRock approximately seven years ago, but decided the timing was not right.

My favorite nugget, the boys at BGI won’t have to change the initials on their luggage. The firm will continue to be called BGI as the new company takes the name BlackRock Global Investors.

BlackRock Rumored to Buy BGI; BNY Could Enter the Fray

Kudos to Douglas Appell and Pension & Investments for breaking what may be the biggest scoop of the ETF industry this year.

Pension & Investments reported just before the market closed Friday that giant money manager BlackRock made a late day play for Barclays Global Investors. Unnamed sources say, “BlackRock is likely to announce an agreement to buy BGI, creating the world’s biggest institutional money manager.” The source expects the announcement within days. BGI owns the iShares exchange traded fund business.

Big British bank Barclays put the unit up for sale earlier this year in an effort to raise capital and stave off the British government either investing in or nationalizing the bank. CVC, a British private equity firm, offered in April to buy iShares for $4.2 billion. BlackRock is expected to trump that with a $10 billion offer. CVC holds the option to make a counter bid. But a source not directly involved in the deal said CVC wouldn’t be able to top the BlackRock offer.

I love how every story crediting Appell calls him a veteran journalist. What makes one a veteran journalist vs. a regular journalist? I’ve heard of rookie journalists. But after the first year, aren’t all journalists “veteran journalists”?

This morning, the New York Times confirmed the story. Negotiations appear stuck on the issue of price. Barclays wants “more than $12 billion.” Vanguard Group, the providers of a large family of ETFs and mutual funds, had previously been mentioned as a buyer.

This story cleared up one question in many people’s minds: Is this for iShares alone or all of BGI. The Time says all of BGI, which operates in 15 countries with more than $1 trillion in assets under management. If the deal goes through, Barclays could end up with a seat on BlackRock’s board.

The Financial Times confirms the story and raises the ante. FT.com reports Bank of New York Mellon is about to stage an 11th -hour challenge for BGI. FT predicts the deal could come in around $13 billion, with Barclays taking a 20% stake in Blackrock.

I want to know where is Fidelity, the mutual fund giant? Fidelity missed the boat the first time and here’s its chance to be one of the largest in the mutual fund and ETF businesses in one fell swoop.

PowerShares/Van Eck Tie for Most Innovative U.S. ETF

Invesco PowerShares and Van Eck’s Market Vectors shared the 2008 award for the Most Innovative ETF the Americas at the 5th annual Global ETF Awards recently. Daiwa FTSE Sharia Japan 100 won Most Innovative ETF in Asia, while db x-trackers and Lyxor Asset Management tied in Europe.

The actual ETFs weren’t listed, as voters aren’t required to mention the fund’s name, just the firm’s. It’s probably just as well. I surmise that PowerShares won for producing the first family of active ETFs in the U.S. rather than any particular fund. PowerShares’ Active Alpha Multi Cap Fund (PQZ), Active AlphaQ Fund (PQY), Active Low Duration Fund (PLK) and the Active Mega-Cap Fund (PMA) were all launched on April 11, 2008. Does any one fund stand out as more innovative than the others? I don’t think so. I suggest they won more for bringing the active concept to the U.S. market.

PowerShares actually didn’t launch the first active ETF. It had been in a race to come out with the first active ETF, but lost to Bear Stearns by just a matter of weeks. However, when Bear Stearns died, so did its active fund, leaving PowerShares with the first viable active ETFs in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Market Vectors launched five ETFs last year. If I had to guess, I would say they won for their funds covering frontier markets, Africa Index ETF (AFK) and Gulf States Index ETF (MES).

The SPDRs brand of ETFs from State Street Global Advisors again won Most Recognized ETF Brand in the Americas. This is probably due to the fact that the SPDR (SPY) was the first ETF and is the largest and most liquid ETF on the U.S. market. But I’m sure a lot of this has to do with the ad campaign for Select Sector SPDRs.

These commercials, which run often on CNBC, show spiders building webs in the industry-signifying shapes such as an oil derrick for the Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE), a hard hat for the Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB) or light bulb for Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU). The ad makes a really good connection between the name SPDR and that fact that these are funds to invest in. SPDR also surprised many people by winning Most Informative Website, SPDRS.com. The site is a big advancement over the previous incarnation and much easier to use.

The Global ETF Awards are like the Oscars of the ETF industry. They are unique on Wall Street, because as far as I know these are the only awards in which an industry is invited to vote on itself. This makes winning extremely special because it’s your competitors who say you’ve done a good job, rather than a few individuals.

Some people who read my previous note about the awards seemed to think the conference and awards deal only with the international market. That’s not right. As I clearly stated previously, it’s the only conference that deals with BOTH U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL issues. Nearly every company in the U.S. ETF industry attended and many had representatives speaking on panels. However, unlike other ETF conference I’ve attended, which are completely focused on the U.S., this conference also addresses issues affecting ETF providers outside the U.S.

It was a great opportunity to network with not just State Street, Bank of New York Mellon, ProShares, PowerShares and Barclays, to name a few, but also representatives from the Bank of Ireland, France’s Lyxor, the London Stock Exchange and China Asset Management.

The conference and awards dinner are presented by ExchangeTradedFunds.com and were held at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

For the complete list of winners go to ExchangeTradedFunds.com.

iShares Might Really be Sold

It looks like iShares might really be sold.

“Barclays has started exclusive negotiations with CVC Capital Partners, the private equity group, to sell the exchange traded funds business of its iShares subsidiary in a deal expected to be worth about £3bn,” reported the Financial Times.

This comes on the heels of the FT’s report that Barclay’s was in talks with three suitors.

I’m still digesting this. More to come.

Barclays Looking to Sell iShares

Barclays PLC shares is trying to sell its iShares exchange-traded-fund business in an effort to raise the necessary money to avoid being taken over by the British government. However, the list of possible buyers is very short.

More on this later.

Here are reports from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

SPA ETF to Close All 6 of its Funds

Another one bites the dust.

SPA ETFs announced late Monday that it plans to close all six of its SPA MarketGrader ETFs. Their last day of trading on the NYSE Arca will be March 25 and they will be liquidated March 30. The six funds trade separately in the U.S., United Kingdom and Italy.

The six funds affected:
SPA MarketGrader 40 Fund (SFV)
SPA MarketGrader 100 Fund (SIH)
SPA MarketGrader 200 Fund (SNB)
SPA MarketGrader Small Cap 100 Fund (SSK)
SPA MarketGrader Mid Cap 100 Fund (SVD)
SPA MarketGrader Large Cap 100 Fund (SZG)

The funds’ board of trustees has been in consultations with SPA ETFs, the investment advisor to the funds, for the past few weeks, to discuss the future of the ETFs. Two weeks ago, the board came close to deciding to shut down the funds, but chose instead to seek further information, according to sources. While it’s unknown what new data forced this decision, SPA said in a written statement that the “board determined current market conditions are unsuitable for a long-only equity investment strategy, such as the one employed by the SPA MarketGrader ETFs.” They decided closing the funds would be in the best interest of the shareholders.

As of Friday, the six U.S. funds assets totaling $10.4 million, while the European funds held $7.5 million, reported IndexUniverse.

“In light of the current market environment keeping the SPA MarketGrader Funds open would compromise investors and increase costs,” said Daniel Freedman, managing director of SPA ETFs, in a written statement. However, the company plans to stay in the ETF market. “The SPA ETF Trust remains open and we plan to partner with other institutions to bring new ETFs to market in Europe and the U.S. in 2009. Additionally, when market conditions improve we may reintroduce the MarketGrader strategy.”

SPA is a sister company to 22-year-old British money manager London & Capital. The U.S. funds launched in October 2007, a month after the British funds, and made SPA the first foreign company to launch ETFs in the U.S. Barclays Global Investors, a unit of Barclays, a British bank, is headquartered in San Francisco. The SPA funds are based on indexes from MarketGrader which uses 24 fundamental factors to grade every stock in the U.S. market and pulls the ones that score best in four key areas — growth, value, profitability and cash flow. While the index uses fundamental criteria to pick stocks, the indexes are not fundamentally weighted, like the ETFs from WisdomTree and PowerShares’ FTSE RAFI series.

Ironically, from their inception until June 2008, the MarketGrader funds consistently outperformed the S&P 500 and often beat comparable funds from WisdomTree and PowerShares.

Qubes Celebrate 10th Birthday

The Qubes, one of the most famous ETFs in the world, celebrated its 10-year anniversary yesterday.

The PowerShares QQQ (QQQQ), formerly known as the Nasdaq 100 Index Tracking Stock, hit the market March 10, 1999, in what remains the biggest most successful launch of a single U.S. ETF. Today, it is one of the most actively traded securities in the world.

“It is the most traded security in shares and dollar volume over the last ten years,” says John Jacobs, executive vice president of NASDAQ OMX Global Index Group and the man who created the fund.

While it currently trades on the NASDAQ Stock Market, originally it launched on the American Stock Exchange with the ticker symbol QQQ. This gave the ETF, then called a tracking stock, the nicknames of the “QQQ”, the “Triple Q” and the “Qubes.”

Launched at the height of the Internet stock market bubble, the Qubes fed the investing public’s desire for an easy to trade instrument that held the fastest growing stocks in the world. The NASDAQ 100 index holds the 100 largest non-financial stocks listed on the NASDAQ. That’s a lot of technology, biotechnology and retail.

It’s first day, it traded 2.6 million shares, 53 percent more than the record set two years earlier by the DIAmond Trust (DIA), the first ETF to track the Dow Jones Industrial Average. After just two hours, the NASDAQ 100 ETF, blew away the DIAmond’s first-day total volume of 1.7 shares. Within two weeks, it had traded 30 million shares. At the end of 2000, the Qubes held more than $6 billion in assets. A little more than two months later, on its first anniversary, the Qubes held more than $12 billion.

For a while, it surpassed the assets and daily volume of the first ETF, the Standard & Poor’s Depositary Receipts, or SPDR Trust, (SPY). Yesterday, it held $10.26 billion in assets.

“The Qubes stellar rise signaled to Wall Street that exchange-traded funds were not just a one-hit wonder. It showed potential sponsors there was a market for these products if the index was right.” (For more on the birth of the Qubes, the history of the ETF industry, and why the NYSE refused to let this ETF use the single “Q” ticker symbol, grab a copy of ETFs for the Long Run.) A little more than a year later, Barclays Global Investors launched its iShares family of ETFs. By the end of 2000, there would be 55 iShares.

Ironically, on the Qubes’ first anniversary, March 10, 2000, the NASDAQ Composite Index, which tracks every stock on the NASDAQ, hit its all-time high of 5048.62. The Qubes posted a 12-month return of 125%. The next trading session, the Internet bubble popped, sending the entire stock market into a two-year decline.

On the tenth anniversary, the Nasdaq soared 89.64 points, or 7.1%, to 1358.28, and the ETF jumped $1.59, or 6.2% to $27.33 on volume of 175 million shares. Did the excitement over the Qubes anniversary spark a huge rally in the market? Don’t laugh so quickly. Currently, the NASDAQ-100 Index is the basis for more than 900 products in 34 countries with about $490 billion dollars in notional value tied to it. To date, the index has traded more than 600 million futures contracts with a notional value of more than $25 trillion. Options experts SchaeffersResearch.com says the Qubes saw call buying activity early yesterday.

Of course, Citigroup (C), one of the country’s largest banks, did raise its head from its deathbed to say it was doing very well the first two months of the year, sparking a huge rally in the financial sector. The Dow Jones Industrial Averaged surged 5.8% to 6926 and the S&P 500 leapt 6.4% to 720.

Invesco PowerShares bought the NASDAQ’s ETF business in 2006. It changed the name of the ETF to the PowerShares QQQ in honor of what most people called the fund. However, the ticker has changed to QQQQ because it trades on the NASDAQ Stock Market, which uses four letters in its tickers. The NASDAQ says its market share of U.S. ETFs is more than any other U.S. exchange. In January 2009, volume grew 22% year-over-year to 655 million shares.

The NASDAQ OMX Global Index Group, a unit of the NASDAQ’s parent company, the NASDAQ OMX Group, remains a global leader in creating and licensing strategy indexes. Its most recent being the Government Relief Index and the European Government Relief Index, which include companies currently being bailed out by their governments.

Amid Turmoil, ETF Firms Bring Out New Funds

Well it seems that even amid the turmoil in the broader market and the closing of funds in the ETF industry, new funds are launched every week. Over the previous two weeks, we’ve seen a new airline ETF from Claymore Securities, State Street Global Advisors and BGI both launching two new bond ETFs and Barclays Bank launching two new exchange-traded notes.

This week, Van Eck Global’s ETF family, the Market Vectors, launched two funds. The Market Vectors High-Yield Municipal Index ETF (HYD) launched today on the NYSE Arca, following on the heels of Tuesday’s launched, the Market Vectors Pre-Refunded Municipal Index ETF (PRB) with an expense ratio of 0.24%

HYD will track the Barclays Capital Municipal Custom High Yield Composite Index. This high yield index is a market-size weighted index comprised of publicly traded municipal bonds covering the high-yield long-term tax-exempt bond market.

Van Eck says PRB is the nation’s first ETF to focus on the pre-refunded segment of the municipal bond market and will track the Barclays Capital Municipal Pre-Refunded—Treasury-Escrowed Index. This market-size weighted index holds publicly traded tax-exempt municipal bonds. The unique part about it is the index is comprised of “pre-refunded and/or escrowed-to-maturity bonds.” Heather Bell of Index Universe describes the bonds this way: “Say a city issues $100 million worth of bonds to fund a water facilities project. A few years ago, the deal came to market with interest payments to investors of 6%. But now, with interest rates for 30-year triple-A munis hovering around 5%, the city decides to cut its costs. So it reissues more bonds at the lower rates covering the exact same project. The municipality then takes the proceeds from that second issue and buys similar-termed Treasuries. Since most munis have call features prior to maturity, the Treasuries are put in an escrow account to fully fund the interest and principal of the munis on their first call dates.”

I will address the new ETNs in a later posting.