In recent years, Colombia’s public image has gone from drug war epicenter to rising economic player, and investors have taken notice. And they might take even more notice with this week’s launch of the iShares MSCI Colombia Capped ETF (ICOL), the industry’s third Colombia-focused exchange-traded fund.
iShares, the ETF unit of BlackRock Inc., lauds Colombia as the “new Brazil,” a reference to South America’s largest economy that until recently had been one of the darlings among emerging markets. But unlike Brazil, which has been beset by rising inflation and slowing growth, Colombia oozes positive momentum.
The International Monetary Fund forecasts 4 percent growth for Columbia in 2013. In a February report, the IMF praised the country’s prudent economic policy management and strong policy framework for its “remarkable economic performance in recent years and its resilience to adverse shocks.”
The IMF cited high commodity prices, strong macroeconomic credibility, an improved security situation and large inflows of foreign direct investment––particularly in the hydrocarbon sector––for Colombia's economic strength. (It also cautioned about the country’s reliance on the volatile oil and mining sectors, and said that unemployment and income inequality remain high.)
The ICOL fund tracks the MSCI All Colombia Capped Index, a broad-based Colombia equity market index comprised of companies headquartered or listed in Colombia and that have the majority of their operations based there. As of May 29, 2013, the largest sector weightings were financials (34.17%), energy (31.58%) and utilities (14.99%).
The fund’s net expense ratio is 0.61 percent.
The new Colombia fund joins iShares' suite of single-country Latin and South American ETFs focused on Mexico, Chili and Peru, along with two Brazil funds (including a small-cap fund).
ICOL competes against two existing single-country Colombia ETFs. The Global X FTSE Colombia 20 ETF (GXG) was down percent 15 percent year-to-date through June 19, but had produced stellar annualized gains of 24.71 percent since inception in February 2009. It has assets of $147 million, and sports a net expense ratio of 0.79 percent.
The Market Vectors Colombia ETF (COLX) was off 13 percent year-to-date, and down 4.35 percent since its launch in March 2011. The fund has $2.6 million in assets, and charges a net expense ratio of 0.75 percent.