Tag Archives: BlackRock

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.

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When Is an Index Fund Not an Index Fund?

The coming transformation of ETFs into mutual funds.

At first glance, it seems like an unlikely marriage. Mutual fund leader BlackRock announced last week that it was purchasing Barclays Global Investors, which holds 49 percent of the exchange-traded fund market, for $13.5 billion. These have long been the opposite poles of investing: Most mutual funds try to make money by picking stocks, while ETFs try to make money by simply mimicking the market.

Perhaps the new megagroup will preserve both strategies. But it seems just as likely that BlackRock wants in on the business’s quiet but growing trend called the actively managed ETF. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, well, it is.

In simplest terms, ETFs are index funds—passive, diversified portfolios that trade like a stock. For the past decade, ETF providers like BGI have touted their products as the antidote to the overpriced, underperforming actively managed mutual fund. Over the past six years, investors invested fewer assets in mutual funds and more into ETFs. The trend accelerated during the financial crisis, as investors grew disgusted at the inability of their active mutual funds to protect their assets. Last year, equity mutual funds saw net cash outflows of $245 billion, according to TrimTabs Investment Research, while equity ETFs posted net cash inflows of $140 billion, even as asset values tanked. With all the negative feeling around actively managed mutual funds, why would the ETF industry step backward to make a big push for the actively managed ETFs?

For the money.

Index funds charge lower fees compared with active funds, which means less money in the manager’s pocket. ETFs charge even less than comparable index mutual funds and offer the additional benefits of greater tax efficiency and transparency because they’re structured differently. In addition, ETFs offer the ability to buy or sell shares during market hours. These reasons led ETFs to capture more than $500 million in assets and grab a significant market share from the $9 trillion mutual fund industry.

The first active ETF appeared early last year in an inauspicious start. Bear Stearns launched the ETF just weeks before the bank went belly up. The fund closed soon afterward. A short time later, Invesco PowerShares launched a family of five active ETFs. But they have found it difficult to gain wide acceptance and attract assets. The financial crisis effectively took these funds off most investors’ radar.

However, a thaw in the financial blizzard shows that the industry had been waiting for the right moment to revive what many consider the industry’s Holy Grail. Coincidentally, a new entrant in the field named Grail Advisors launched the first post-financial-crisis active ETF last month.

“We are operating the ETF just like a fundamental mutual fund,” said Grail Chief Executive Officer Bill Thomas in an interview. This ETF, he added, is “similar to traditional actively managed mutual funds … because it allows portfolio managers unrestricted trading.”

And in a little-reported move that BlackRock didn’t miss, iShares, the brand name for BGI’s ETF family, last month began the registration process to launch two active ETFs.

Is this a good thing for the ETF industry? Possibly. Is it a good thing for investors? Definitely not.

For the full story see The Big Money.

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.