Small ETF providers might have little market share, but that hasn't stopped them from being acquired by larger active money management firms looking for a quick way to enter or expand their exchange-traded funds business.
Hartford Funds, Radnor, Pa., announced May 17 its purchase of Lattice Strategies, a San Francisco firm known for its smart-beta ETFs. Just a week earlier, Columbia Threadneedle Investments, Boston, said it would acquire New York-based ETF provider Emerging Global Advisors.
The two announcements by money management firms are the latest in a string of deals that began in late 2014.
At least two more ETF providers will be sold in 2016 to money managers, predicted investment banker Donald Putnam, a managing partner at San Francisco-based Grail Partners LLC. Mr. Putnam said likely buyers will be firms with 20% to 40% of assets under management in mutual funds. “A lot of it has to do with pivoting existing mutual funds into ETF clones, a lot of it has to do with taking asset management styles that are not in mutual funds and putting them in ETF form initially rather than in old-fashioned mutual fund form,” he said.
Mr. Putnam wouldn't say which ETF companies he believes are ripe for acquisition, but Reggie Browne, senior managing director and head of ETF trading at Cantor Fitzgerald LP, New York, said potential acquisition targets include AdvisorShares Investments LLC and WisdomTree Investments Inc., New York.
AdvisorShares, Bethesda, Md., with $1.2 billion in assets under management, is the more typical size of ETF managers being acquired. Publicly traded WisdomTree, on the other hand, is the largest independent ETF company in the U.S., with $42 billion in assets under management.
Jan van Eck, president and CEO of New York-based VanEck Global, an ETF company with $23.7 billion in U.S. ETF assets, said in the past year he has talked to at least 10 managers interested in acquiring an ETF company. “We stay in touch with potential strategic partners and investors, but we don't see a reason for a transaction,” he said. “We think we can grow sufficiently as an independent company.”