FocusShares ETFs, SKOR Throw In The Towel

Cinthia Murphy


A total of 16 ETFs are shutting down Friday, including FocusShares’ entire roster of exchange-traded funds and an IndexIQ South Korea strategy, all because they failed to capture significant assets.

Scottrade’s ETF unit, FocusShares, is officially throwing in the towel as it faces the fact that its 15 funds, which include broad U.S. stock market as well as sector strategies built around Morningstar indexes, have only gathered a combined $100 million. Today is the last trading day for all of those ETFs.

It’s a pure coincidence that Rye Brook, N.Y.-based IndexIQ is also officially pulling the plug on its IQ South Korea Small Cap ETF (SKOR) today. South Korea’s close economic link to ongoing “troubles in China”—rather than the fund’s focus on small-cap names—is the culprit for the fund’s lack of popularity with investors, IndexIQ Chief Executive Adam Patti told IndexUniverse.

The ETF closures are perhaps a signal of change in a quickly growing ETF market that now boasts nearly 1,500 funds and more than $1.221 trillion in assets. ETF providers are having a more difficult time serving up products that stick in a space that's getting increasingly crowded, particularly now that investors—already weary of the volatility and the eurozone debt crisis in the wake of the 2008 credit crisis—seem to be more discerning.

Today's tally of closures brings to 34 the number of ETFs already shuttered this year, including a group of nine Direxion Shares funds that were liquidated earlier this month. That pace already tops the 30 funds that were closed in 2011.

Surprising Nonetheless

Still, however hard it may be to claim stake in an ETF market that is dominated by a handful of large providers, FocusShares’ and IndexIQ's fund shutterings are somewhat surprising.

In FocusShares’ case, the timing of the move was in many ways unexpected as the company had only recently launched a multimedia marketing campaign to promote its funds.

Moreover, the funds were among the cheapest on the market and were offered up with commission-free trading for Scottrade clients.

To anyone looking from outside, the marketing push—even though it began about a year after the funds’ March 2011 rollout—suggested more commitment to growing an ETF business than signaled the whole business-development initiative was only months away from its demise.

Why Didn’t SKOR Score?

IndexIQ’s failure to attract investor interest to SKOR is also baffling in the sense that South Korea is a key market, and there are no other ETFs on the market today that serve up SKOR’s focused exposure.

When the company said back in July it would call it quits on SKOR, the fund had some $6 million in assets, and coming into today’s session, the fund still holds $5.8 million after having rallied 4.2 percent rally in the past month alone.

Still, SKOR is the fourth small-cap fund IndexIQ has shuttered in the past year, as the concept of high-beta funds focused on Asia doesn't seem to be getting significant traction with investors, the firm’s CEO Patti has said.



Liquidation Details

SKOR’s last trading day is today and the fund will be liquidated on or before Aug. 22. Shareholders of record remaining on Aug. 22 will receive cash at the net asset value of their shares as of that date, including any capital gains and dividends as of such date. Shareholders won’t face transaction fees in connection with the liquidation.

As far as FocusShares funds, investors will have until today to sell their holdings while incurring any transaction fees that come from their broker-dealer, the company said in a press release. Between Aug. 20-30, shares may also be sold, but there’s no guarantee there will be a market for them.

By Aug. 30, any investor still holding on to the ETFs will get a cash distribution equal to the amount of the net asset value of their shares at that date, including any capital gains and dividends. There will be no fees tied to that.

The ETFs being liquidated include:

  • Focus Morningstar US Market Index ETF (FMU)
  • Focus Morningstar Large Cap Index ETF (FLG)
  • Focus Morningstar Mid Cap Index ETF (FMM)
  • Focus Morningstar Small Cap Index ETF (FOS)
  • Focus Morningstar Basic Materials Index ETF (FBM)
  • Focus Morningstar Communication Services Index ETF (FCQ)
  • Focus Morningstar Consumer Cyclical Index ETF (FCL)
  • Focus Morningstar Consumer Defensive Index ETF (FCD)
  • Focus Morningstar Energy Index ETF (FEG)
  • Focus Morningstar Financial Services Index ETF (FFL)
  • Focus Morningstar Health Care Index ETF (FHC)
  • Focus Morningstar Industrials Index ETF (FIL)
  • Focus Morningstar Real Estate Index ETF (FRL)
  • Focus Morningstar Technology Index ETF (FTQ)
  • Focus Morningstar Utilities Index ETF (FUI)

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