WisdomTree Plans Ex-Banks China Payout ETF

February 02, 2012

WisdomTree plans a China-focused dividend ETF that steers clear of financial companies.

WisdomTree, the only publicly traded company focused exclusively on sponsoring exchange-traded funds, filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission to launch an ETF focused on nonfinancial Chinese companies that pay attractive dividends.

The WisdomTree China Dividend ex-Financials Fund will track the company's own WisdomTree China Dividend ex-Financials Index, the filing said. The fund will target the 10 highest-yielding companies in each of the following investment sectors: consumer discretionary, consumer staples, energy, health care, industrials, information technology, materials, telecommunication services, and utilities.

ETFs focused on dividends have been all the rage in the past year as investors look for investments that yield more than many bonds at a time of heightened volatility. While concern about flagging Chinese growth has been part of the uncertainty, the China growth story remains a huge theme in investment markets. The fact that WisdomTree is planning an ETF that steers clear of financial companies appears to reflect underlying worry among analysts that some big Chinese banks may be on the hook for billions of dollars in bad loans.

Whatever the lingering doubt about China’s banks, growth there remains exceedingly robust by developed-world standards.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, China had 8.9 percent annual growth, lower than the 9.7 percent growth it started the year with, but still well beyond that of developed nations in the West. And even though some analysts are predicting a 7.5 percent growth for 2012, that figure handily beats the Federal Reserve’s projected 2.5 percent growth for the U.S. economy in 2012.

Companies are eligible to be included in the index if they have at least $1 billion in float-adjusted market capitalization, are domiciled in China and are listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The fact that WisdomTree is using its own index for the fund is another example of a growing trend among ETF companies to develop their own indexes, rather than using an index independent index provider, ostensibly to cut costs. Many indexing companies are paid based on a fixed percentage of assets that are indexed to a given benchmark, meaning increasingly large revenue streams are going to indexing costs as the ETF industry matures.

New York-based WisdomTree was the first company to get permission from regulators to self-index, though a number of firms are doing it now too, including IndexIQ and Van Eck Global. More recently, iShares and Guggenheim have submitted petitions to the SEC to gain permission to self-index as well.



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