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ETF Seems More Utilities Than Infrastructure

Macquarie Bank is back at the table with another infrastructure-based investment product that has been listed in the U.S.: the SPDR/FTSE Macquarie Global Infrastructure 100 ETF (GII). But after analyzing its holdings and the performance of another of Macquarie's infrastructure fund, I don't believe it will serve as the proxy its name implies.

Macquarie is one of the five largest Australian banks and has created a niche with infrastructure funds. Generally speaking, the funds own pipelines, airplane hangars and plenty of other seemingly slow-growth, high-cash-flow businesses. Macquarie also has a suite of funds that, in a similar vein, own public electric utilities, telephone companies and gas companies.

Macquarie already has three U.S.-listed funds. The most actively traded is the Macquarie Infrastructure Trust (MIC), which I wrote about almost a year and a half ago. The other two are closed-end funds: Macquarie/First Trust Global Infrastructure/Utilities Dividend and Income Fund (MFD) and the Macquarie Global Infrastructure Total Return Fund (MGU). Both CEFs trade at small discounts to net asset value and yield about 5%.

GII will be more along the lines of MFD and MGU, in that it owns individual stocks, than like MIC, which makes direct investments. But instead of being actively managed, GII will be indexed. Despite the name of the fund, it really is a utility sector fund. Its top 10 stock holdings are all utilities, and in fact, the sector accounts for 90% of the holdings. Energy and industrials each account for about 4% and telecom rounds out the mix at 1.55%.

Many of the names in GII's top 10 holdings are also among the top 10 holdings of two other ETFs: the iShares S&P Global Utilities Sector Index Fund (JXI) (eight names in common) and the WisdomTree International Utilities Sector Fund (DBU) (six names in common). While the weightings are different, I have to wonder whether GII could be considered more a proxy for global utilities than infrastructure.

GII is expected to yield 3.1%, which lags DBU but comes in higher than JXI. The expense for GII will be 0.60%, compared with 0.58% for DBU and 0.48% for JXI.

If GII's proxy doesn't match its name, it won't be a first for a Macquarie ETF along these lines. Although we don't have much data to work with, MGU, Macquarie's Global Infrastructure Fund -- and again, I question whether GII will look more like a global utility fund -- appears to have a closer correlation to JXI, the Global Utilities iShares, than to MIC, the Macquarie Infrastructure Trust.

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