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.