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ETF Seems More Utilities Than Infrastructure

Macquarie's newest product looks more like a global utilities fund.

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) - Get SPDR S&P Global Infrastructure ETF Report

. 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) - Get Macquarie Infrastructure Corporation Report

, 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) - Get Macquarie/ First Trust Global Infrastructure/ Utilities Dividend & Income Fund Report

and the

Macquarie Global Infrastructure Total Return Fund

(MGU) - Get Macquarie Global Infrastructure Total Return Fund Inc Report

. 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


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

TheStreet Recommends

(JXI) - Get iShares Global Utilities ETF Report

(eight names in common) and the

WisdomTree International Utilities Sector Fund


(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.

One more sticking point is just how global GII will be. Most of an ETF's return usually can be attributed to its largest holdings (obviously, there are some exceptions). So one point I can't yet reconcile is that almost 40% of GII is invested in U.S. stocks, yet the U.S. is very under-represented in the top 10 holdings. My initial take on the fund was that it would act like a domestic fund, but based on the top 10 holdings, I'd say not.

This brings me to a conclusion that appears often in my columns: Give this new ETF some time to trade. GII will be a proxy for something; there's no need to correctly guess right now what that will be -- that is, to rush to invest.

On a related note: In addition to this fund, Macquarie has created infrastructure indices for Australia, Asia, different sectors and a few other resources, which could be interesting if they provide different access to similar themes captured by already existing products.

One index that I'd be interested to see an ETF for is Macquarie's water index. I am a big believer in the water theme, and while I have

written about and own

PowerShares Water

(PHO) - Get Invesco Water Resources ETF Report

, I have to think a better mousetrap could be out there somewhere.

I use MIC in most client portfolios, but would not hesitate to switch to another fund, such as GII, if it turned out to be a better product.

Infrastructure investing plays a specific role in a diversified portfolio, providing stability and usually yield. If, over time, a fund such as GII can do that without being as sensitive to interest rates as fixed-income products, or can fare better during a time of true stock market panic, all the better.

Please note that due to factors including low market capitalization and/or insufficient public float, we consider SPDR/FTSE Macquarie Global Infrastructure 100 ETF, Macquarie/First Trust Global Infrastructure/Utilities Dividend and Income Fund, Macquarie Global Infrastructure Total Return Fund, iShares S&P Global Utilities Sector Index Fund, WisdomTree International Utilities Sector Fund to be small-cap stocks. You should be aware that such stocks are subject to more risk than stocks of larger companies, including greater volatility, lower liquidity and less publicly available information, and that postings such as this one can have an effect on their stock prices.

At the time of publication, Nusbaum was long Macquarie Infrastructure Trust, WisdomTree International Utilities Sector Fund and PowerShares Water for client accounts, 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;

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