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Income Investor: ETFs to tap emerging markets

Our yield-seeking columnist finds a pair of investments in emerging markets, the ‘Wild West’ of global investing

 
Income Investor: ETFs to tap emerging markets

As reported previously I have decided to diversify my real-life DIY Income Investor portfolio a bit more outside the UK.

Although I’m currently looking abroad, the portfolio will continue to concentrate on my home currency - this income will pay the bills, without taking on additional currency risks. In addition, many of the shares and fixed-income securities quoted on the London Stock Exchange have extensive international exposure.

Seeking resilience and transparency

The way I have chosen to do this is using Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), which are (generally) transparent, cost-efficient, liquid vehicles that trade on stock exchanges like normal securities. I have looked at high-yield ETFs, which do the admin for you, as well as diversifying among a number of holdings. The charge made by ETFs for this service (indicated approximately as the Total Expense Ratio (TER) is modest, compared to the charges levied by most mainstream ‘funds’.

For added peace of mind I plan to invest in ETFs that hold physical securities (i.e. as opposed to ‘synthetic’ ETFs), hoping that this will prove more resilient in the next market melt-down - and which follow a specific (and specialised) index.

My high-yield portfolio is split 50%/50% between dividend shares and fixed-income, and I propose to continue this allocation approach by investing in matching pairs of ETFs that deal in high-yield shares and corporate bonds. For this bit of geographical diversification I have chosen ‘Emerging Markets’ - this is a more flattering term for what is essentially the ‘Wild West’ of global investing.

Dividend hunt

The first of this 'Emerging Markets' pair of ETFs is the SPDR S&P Emerging Markets Dividend ETF, which is an open-end, UCITS-compliant (EU standard for collective funds), ETF domiciled in Ireland and managed by State Street.

The aim of the SPDR S&P Emerging Markets Dividend UCITS ETF is to track the equity market performance of high-yielding stocks from emerging markets, tracking the S&P Emerging Markets Dividend Opportunities Index as closely as possible. The managers quote the weighted average of gross dividend yield of stocks in the fund as around 7.5% (although this is not the dividend yield of the fund, which is nearer 6.5%, as far as I can work it out) with an average p/e of 9.3. Dividends are paid semi-annually.

The ETF is quoted in GBP on the LSE. The top holdings are diversified geographically including Poland, Turkey and Brazil. The Total Expense Ratio is 0.65% - a bit pricey but then this is a huge geographical spread to deal with.

Income fix

To match this 'Emerging Markets' dividend ETF, I have bought an equivalent fixed-income ETF - one which invests in the 'liquid local currency emerging markets debt market'.

The SPDR Barclays Emerging Markets Local Bond UCITS ETF, is an open-end, UCITS-compliant (EU standard) Exchange Traded Fund, domiciled in Ireland and managed by State Street. This ETF tracks the Barclays Emerging Markets Local Currency Liquid Government Index as closely as possible.

This ETF is priced in US$ on the LSE (making my portfolio spread sheet calculations just that little bit more complicated). The managers claim a current yield is over 8% (with a yield-to-maturity of nearly 5%) but my own calculations based on the last distribution put the ETF yield at around 4.5% - the information on the actual yield that an investor would receive is a bit opaque, to say the least. The distribution of income is also semi-annual.

The top holdings are things like:

  • BLTN 0 01/01/14
  • RFLB 8.15 02/03/27
  • MBONO 6 06/18/15

(Of course, Citywire Money readers will be familiar with these… Or not).

The Total Expense Ratio is 0.55% but when you look at the range of obscure securities the ETF follows, this looks like a reasonable price to pay for this degree of diversification.

[Note: the fact that these are both SPDR (State Street Global Advisers) ETFs is that these seemed to be the easiest to find that fitted the bill - there are probably others that will do a similar job.]

If you've enjoyed this article, why not visit DIY Income Investor's blog? The views in this article are the author's own, and do not constitute advice.

9 comments so far. Why not have your say?

Bodlan

Jan 22, 2013 at 17:18

I have just been investigating this ETF myself. How did you find out that the actual yield is about 6.5% whereas the advertised yield is 7.48%?

Also, I cannot find any ex dividend or payment dates anywhere, yet? I'm still looking though.

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douglas gordon

Jan 22, 2013 at 21:32

Thanks Income Investor for another good, interesting & informative article which makes hunting for income outside the mainstream a lot easier for novices like myself. Actual yields are difficult to ascertain - it would be helpful if you could illustrate in detail how you calculated these.

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Bodlan

Jan 23, 2013 at 18:17

I have a link to the ex dividend dates now.

https://www.spdrseurope.com/library-content/public/Dividend_Calendar.pdf

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Income Investor

Jan 23, 2013 at 21:26

Bodlan & douglas

As I couldn't find anything better, I took the latest distribution, multiplied it by 2 (because there are two distributions per year) and divided it by the current price - an approximation only, until some bright spark can locate a better source...

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douglas gordon

Jan 24, 2013 at 05:13

Thanks I.I. - what source did you use to find the latest distribution? It's really annoying that actual yields can be so difficult to ascertain; it would be so much easier if everything was more transparent. Your articles are very helpful.

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Income Investor

Jan 25, 2013 at 08:58

douglas

Bloomberg:

http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/EDIV:US

http://www.bloomberg.com/quote/EBND:US

As far as I can see SPDR doesn't publish this information - bizarre, if true!

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douglas gordon

Jan 26, 2013 at 01:30

Thanks again.

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Tim Beard

Jan 27, 2013 at 10:44

Income Investor, thanks for highlighting these ETFs. I hadn't come across SPDR before. It looks like they offer some interesting funds.

After digging around I found a bit more information. The upcoming and historical dividend information for all their ETFs is aggregated into a single document here (found on the right hand side of the ETF page under Related Items - Dividend.

http://www.spdrseurope.com/library-content/public/ETF_Dividend_Distribution_Document.pdf

For the past year for the Emerging Markets Dividend ETF:

July 2012: $0.7681

Jan 2013: $0.5150

Looking at the current price of the fund on the LSE (using the $ listed version, EDVD.L, as the dividends are shown in $), which is $23.84 on 27/1, that gives a yield of around 5.4%.

Quite why it's more than 2 percentage points below the yield of the underlying assets is a mystery (and a bit concerning). Any ideas anyone?

Similarly for the bond, from the same document dividend for past year is $4.79, giving a dividend yield (from the price of $-listed EMDD.L) of 4.67%.

It looks like both the stocks and the bond ETFs are available in GBP versions on the LSE: EMDV and EMDL respectively.

While these are certainly interesting funds, I would like to understand more about the discrepancies between the underlying index performance and the ETF performance, which seem to be significantly greater than stated Expenses Ratios. Any thoughts on that would be interesting.

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Income Investor

Jan 28, 2013 at 08:25

Gold star, Tim

I suspect that this is how they make their money - hence why the information is made difficult to put together. Disappointing, at least compared to the way iShares - for example - set out their fund info.

The reality is that there are not too many ETFs with the income-oriented profile I am looking for: I'm even having to look at the synthetic DB ETFs!

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