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Funds Propose Bet on Indian Infrastructure

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Of the four BRIC nations, India seems less known to U.S.-based investors than Brazil, Russia and China, but ETF provider Emerging Global Shares is committed to trying to change that. A few weeks ago it launched the Emerging Global Shares Indxx India Small Cap ETF (SCIN) and more recently the Emerging Global Shares Indxx India Infrastructure Index ETF (INXX). The fund provider believes India will be an important investment destination, which is why it is first to market in both these Indian niches.

India Infrastructure is also the third infrastructure fund the company has launched, after EG Shares INDXX China Infrastructure Index ETF (CHXX) and EG Shares INDXX Brazil Infrastructure Index ETF (BRXX). A big catalyst for emerging markets is the modernizing of infrastructure to provide something akin to a middle-class lifestyle. EG Shares has made available a report that notes that more than $1 trillion will be spent on infrastructure in India between 2012-17, and from a big-picture viewpoint, that's a good assurance. The expenditure is a positive long-term catalyst that should help the stocks populating the fund, since the more efficiently and effectively the money is spent, the more promise for those companies.

At the industry level, the fund is heaviest in electric utility stocks at 23%; construction and materials at 18%; metals and mining at 13%; and engineering companies at 12%. The individual holdings are probably unfamiliar to most U.S.-based investors, with natural gas company GAIL India the largest at 6.4%, Jindal Steel & Power at 5.8% and engineering and manufacturer Bhartel Heavy Electricals at 5.4%. Also included are cement companies, power grid operators and even some telecom exposure.

The net expense ratio of the fund is 0.85%, which is nominally on the high side. But the shares in the fund are Indian companies traded in India as opposed to ADRs traded in the U.S. Anyone looking for a large yield will need to look elsewhere, as the yield of the underlying index does not quite cover the expense ratio.

India has clearly become a very popular investment destination -- evidenced by the success of the WisdomTree India Earnings Fund (EPI) in attracting more than $1 billion in assets. Both the small-cap fund and infrastructure funds from EG Shares offer the opportunity for more specialized exposure. For an investor looking for a smaller exposure to India, perhaps at 3% or 4%, I would argue for the infrastructure fund. The buildup and buildout of India's infrastructure will allow a middle-class ascendancy, making it easier for Indian citizens to access and benefit from the tech and consumer goods favored in the small-cap fund. For investors looking to allocate more to India, I believe there is room for both funds. It doesn't make much sense to buy two funds essentially owning the same things, but these have very little sector or individual stock overlap.

EG Shares provides some back testing information showing the infrastructure index has had a 0.98 correlation to the benchmark Nifty Index but has a higher standard deviation, which is not a great combination. Ultimately, buying this fund is a bet that in the future infrastructure will become increasingly more important and result in outperformance over the large-cap benchmark.

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At the time of publication, Nusbaum held BRXX, although positions may change at any time.

Roger Nusbaum is a portfolio manager with Your Source Financial of Phoenix, and the author of Random Roger's Big Picture Blog. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Nusbaum appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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