Goldman Plans Low-Beta US Equities ETF

September 02, 2011

Goldman updates ETF plans, saying its first fund would focus on low-beta U.S. equities.

Goldman Sachs, the investment banking giant behind the commodities ETN “GSC,” filed updated paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission to say that the first index ETF it hopes to roll out once it receives SEC permission to market ETFs will focus on U.S. equities.

The firm, which first filed for permission to issue ETFs in late 2009, said the index behind its first planned fund will rank the U.S stock universe by using five-year beta measures and eliminate the top 30 percent by weight, according to the updated “exemptive relief” filing.

Goldman is one of many influential firms to have begun laying the groundwork to issue ETFs in the past few years. The U.S. exchange-traded fund universe, including ETNs, now includes almost 1,300 securities and $1.055 trillion in assets, according to data compiled by IndexUniverse. By comparison, U.S. mutual funds had $12 trillion in assets at the end of July, according to the Investment Company Institute, the mutual fund industry’s trade group.

In its updated paperwork, Goldman added fund-of-funds ETFs to the types of funds it might bring to market, adding to the broad exemptive relief it first sought from the SEC that mentioned plans to launch a variety of funds, including equity, fixed-income and blended portfolios. It also noted that any international funds will be adjusted to reflect currency exchange rates at the end of each business day.

Regarding its initial fund, Goldman said that once it has eliminated the top 30 percent of stocks using its five-year beta screen, it will then weight the remaining stocks according to float-adjusted intrinsic value. That measure will depend on variables such as book value, return on equity and dividend payout ratio. The fund will include more than 2,000 names and will be rebalanced twice a year in March and September, the filing said.

The firm noted in its first filing that both the equity and fixed-income funds will also be allowed to utilize cash and in-kind redemptions, which should help keep spreads narrow.

It didn’t mention fees or expenses. No mention was made of fees or what indexes would be used.

Goldman is no stranger to the world of exchange-traded products.

It launched the GS Connect S&P GSCI Enhanced Commodity Total Return Strategy Index Exchange-Traded Note (NYSEArca: GSC) in the summer of 2007. That ETN now has about $74 million in assets, compared with about $60 million when it first filed for exemptive relief late in 2009.

Goldman is also part of Source ETFs, a joint venture with Morgan Stanley that offers a suite of ETFs in Europe.

An exemptive relief filing isn’t a definitive signal that a firm will begin launching ETFs in the near future. It often takes six to nine months for a firm to roll out its first fund after making an initial filing, but that time lag has grown since the financial crisis hit in 2008.


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