NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The Federal Reserve's policies of zero percent interest rates and quantitative easing have been referred to in some circles as a war on savers. That's because interest rates on money markets, certificates of deposit and most parts of the bond market have been too low to generate a sufficient income.
This has caused investors to seek out bond market alternatives including master limited partnerships, or MLPs. Typically MLPs capture a royalty off the transportation of energy products through a pipeline.
They tend to have high dividend yields, low volatility and favorable, but complicated, taxation at the corporate level. MLPs are not common stocks, and the dividends are called "distributions." What's more, MLPs don't issue shares; they issue "units."
Because they are partnerships, MLPs issue a K-1 form at tax time, which can be a complicating factor even for units held in IRA accounts. The K-1 issue then becomes a complicating factor for any fund targeting the space.There are several fund structures that exist that target MLPs, and all of them have positive and negative attributes. One type is a C-Corp. On the positive side, these funds handle the tax forms and pay the taxes for fund holders. The downside is that the tax bite is accounted for on a daily basis, which has the net effect of inflating the expense ratio to 4%-5%. Another type of MLP fund wrapper is the exchange-traded note. ETNs don't own anything; they promise to deliver the exposure so there are no complicated tax issues, but note holders own unsecured debt of the issuing bank, not an actual portfolio of companies. This past week Global X issued the MLP & Energy Infrastructure (MLPX), which offers a unique strategy that seeks to lessen the complications of investing in the space. Unlike other MLP funds, MLPX is structured as a Regulated Investment Company, or RIC. On the plus side of the ledger, there will be no K-1 forms and, unlike ETNs, the fund will own a real portfolio of companies. The down side is that because it is an RIC, it can only allocate 25% of the holdings into MLPs; the rest of the portfolio will be divided between related energy companies, what Global X refers to as affiliate companies, and other energy infrastructure companies.
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