ETF For Africa

Posted by Bull Bear Trader | 7/15/2008 07:59:00 AM | , , , , , | 0 comments »

A few months ago BullBearTrader highlighted a U.S. News and World Report interview with Jon Auerback, in which he discussed potential new BRIC-type countries (see the original article, or initial post). In the article Auerback mentions Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Kenya as potential regional opportunities. Other analysts and investors have also begun to talk about Africa as being one of the next regions for achieving above average growth and investment opportunities, even given some of the political, economic, and inflationary risks that still exists.

To take advantage of current and future redistribution of capital into Africa, Van Eck Global is offering a new frontier market exchange traded fund called the Market Vectors Africa Index ETF (AFK). For more information, see the IndexUniverse article, or read the prospectus. The AFK is not the first vehicle to begin tracking the performance of companies domiciled or operating in Africa. In a recent post we discussed the newly offered PowerShares MENA Frontier Countries Portfolio (PMNA). The PMNA tracks the Nasdaq OMX Middle East North Africa Index, which includes the countries of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

The AFK is unique in that it follows the Dow Jones Africa Titans 50 Index, covering 50 stocks from 11 different African markets, including Nigeria (32.5% weight total, 25.2% onshore, 7.3% offshore), South Africa (26.2% total, 24.7% onshore, 1.5% offshore), Egypt (13.1%), Morocco (11.4%), Equatorial Guinea (6.2% offshore), Zambia (3.4% offshore), Angola (2% offshore), Mali (1.7% offshore), DR Congo (1.5% offshore), Kenya (1.2%), and Ghana (0.7% offshore).

A few points are worth noting about the index. For one, not all of the companies in the index are domiciled in Africa but are nonetheless included since they derive a majority of their revenues from African markets - thus the classification of "offshore." Also, the index is not constructed totally of frontier markets. Both South Africa and Egypt are typically classified as emerging (see previous post for a discussion of the distinction between emerging and frontier markets). This classification is important given that the emerging markets represent nearly 40% of the index. This actually gives the index both the higher growth and return potential of the higher-risk frontier markets, but also some of the liquidity of slightly less risky investable emerging markets.

The index is market cap weighted and sets maximum holdings at 25% for countries and 8% for any individual companies. Of interest is that Nigeria is already overweight at 32.5% total weight, with 25.2% onshore. It is not clear if the offshore percentages are included in the 25% country limits. Banks currently make up 33.7% of the index, with basic resources at 18.2%, oil and natural gas at 13.5%, telecommunications at 10.2%, and technology at 7.3%. As for components, the fund states that it "..will normally invest at least 80% of its total assets in securities that comprise the Africa Titans 50 Index." Companies must have market capitalizations greater than $200 million. The fund's prospectus also mentions that it may utilize derivatives. The expense ratio for the fund is 1.2%, which can be waived down to a net expense ratio of 0.83%, but is still expensive compared to some of its peers.

While not a pure frontier market ETF (there currently are none), the index does give concentrated exposure to the African region, allowing investors to follow their belief that growth in Africa may be the next big thing. Given capital flows into Africa, and the benefits of higher commodity prices for some of natural resource rich countries in the region, a small exposure to Africa within your portfolio may be worth considering.