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BlackRock Starts Metaverse-Themed ETF Despite Waning Investor Interest

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Investment giant BlackRock (BLK) is offering an exchange-traded fund (ETF) that will focus primarily on tech companies that are exposed to the metaverse, even as some institutional investors appear to have lost interest in the concept after its immense popularity during the recent bull run.

The fund, iShares Future Metaverse Tech and Communications ETF (IVRS), will invest in companies that are expected to contribute to the metaverse in areas including virtual platforms, social media, gaming, 3D software, digital assets, and virtual and augmented reality, according to its website. The top five companies that are included in the holdings are Meta Platforms (META), Apple (AAPL), Nvidia (NVDIA), Netease (NTES) and Roblox (RBLX).

Interest in building the metaverse, a concept first coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash," has expanded in recent years, with independent platforms like Decentraland and The Sandbox gaining considerable market share.

However, general attitudes toward building the metaverse remain mixed, according to a recent survey from consulting firm KPMG. While over 90% of investors still believe the metaverse is the next phase of the internet, a large portion of investors remain cautious due to regulatory, privacy and adoption concerns.

Read more: A Crypto Guide to the Metaverse - CoinDesk

While major companies like Microsoft (MSFT) and Meta demonstrated enthusiasm for the metaverse during the bull run, their funding of virtual social spaces has slowed amid an ongoing crypto winter. Microsoft was reported to have recently ended a project intended to encourage the use of the metaverse in industrial environments just four months after it was formed. Meanwhile, in 2022, Meta lost about $14 billion in its fledgling Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) division, which comprises its augmented and virtual reality operations.

Still, the new ETF is likely positioning itself for the longer-term potential of the technology, given the timing of the launch. "[The metaverse] at this juncture, it is much like the internet of the early 1990s or the smartphone of the early 2000s. We expect it is going to be big, and very likely change people's daily lives," said Reid Menge, co-portfolio manager of the BlackRock Technology Opportunities Fund, in a blog post dated Feb. 8.

The ETF has a net asset value of about $5 million and trades on the New York Stock Exchange. It will primarily focus on equities and won't invest in cryptocurrencies directly. However, the fund will invest in companies that facilitate the use of payment systems or digital assets in the metaverse, according to its prospectus.

BlackRock's new ETF will be competing with the likes of Global X Metaverse ETF (VR), Roundhill Ball Metaverse ETF (METV) and Fidelity Metaverse ETF (FMET), all of which had declining values in the past year.