September saw its second new ETF go live last week — but if you’re an InvestorPlace regular, you probably know all about it.
BlackRock’s (NYSE:BLK) iShares division launched the long-awaited MSCI Frontier 100 Index ETF (NYSE:FM) last Thursday, months after MSCI Inc. (NYSE:MSCI) said it was launching a new index for the same purpose.
The FM fund tracks the MSCI Frontier Markets 100 Index, which is comprised of 100 of the MSCI Frontier Markets Index’s largest and most liquid companies.
That focus on “largest and most liquid” is pretty darn important in context of frontier markets. While there’s no set definition, frontier markets are generally considered riskier places for investment than even emerging markets — and that’s, of course, offset by the potential for explosive returns.
The MSCI Frontier 100 Index ETF holds companies from 20 frontier-market countries, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Croatia, Estonia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritius, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Romania, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. It’s exceedingly Middle East-heavy, however, with Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE making up almost 60% of the fund’s holdings.
Sector-wise, financials make up the lion’s share of FM at 56%. Telecom’s another 15%, with energy and industrials also sitting in high single-digits.
FM charges 0.79% in expenses, which makes it just a bit more costly than its sparse field of competitors — the Guggenheim Frontier Markets ETF (NYSE:FRN) and the PowerShares MENA Frontier Countries Portfolio (NASDAQ:PMNA) each charge 0.7%.
In FRN, you’re getting a much more South American feel, with almost 70% of that fund’s holdings wrapped up in Chile, Colombia, Peru and Argentina alone. Conversely, PMNA is more regionally hyper-focused than FM; it’s based on the Nasdaq OMX Middle East North Africa Index, and currently only holds companies based in Egypt, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Morocco, Jordan and Oman.
The previous week saw an ETF that switches between three different benchmarks come to market. In all, 142 new funds have come out so far in 2012, according to XTF.com.