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Legg Mason’s new ETF kicks off with a secret: Its stock holdings

The new ETF from Legg Mason will have a relatively “concentrated” portfolio of 30 to 40 companies with value investing characteristics, a fund manager at the firm's affiliate ClearBridge Investments says.
The launch from Legg Mason will have a relatively “concentrated” portfolio of 30 to 40 companies with value investing characteristics, a fund manager at the firm's affiliate ClearBridge Investments says.
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Legg Mason is starting a value-focused ETF that will conceal its holdings.

The ClearBridge Focus Value ETF begins trading on the Chicago Board Options Exchange on Thursday under the ticker CFCV. The equity product will be actively managed and disclose its holdings just once a quarter, instead of doing that daily like most ETFs.

So-called non-transparent ETFs are appealing for managers looking to shield their strategies from front-running or replication from rivals. That structure made sense for CFCV, which will have a relatively “concentrated” portfolio of 30 to 40 companies with value investing characteristics, according to Dmitry Khaykin at Legg Mason’s affiliate ClearBridge Investments.

“We try to buy the blue-chip companies that we can feel comfortable owning throughout the cycle,” said Khaykin, a portfolio manager with the firm. “We try to be opportunistic to buy them at reasonable valuations.”

The timing of CFCV’s launch is fortuitous. After a brutal decade for value investing, easing stay-at-home guidelines and reopening optimism are buoying shares of smaller and beaten-down companies.

American Century launched the first hidden-asset ETFs in April, and Goldman Sachs Asset Management, JPMorgan Chase and T. Rowe Price are among the asset managers who have also filed plans. The American Century Focused Dynamic Growth ETF and the American Century Focused Large Cap Value ETF have collectively amassed roughly $32 million in assets since launching last month.

“Just because someone’s charging 1% doesn’t mean you should take them off your list,” an expert says.
May 20

The once-a-quarter disclosures help portfolio managers protect their intellectual capital, according to Precidian CEO Dan McCabe.

“If Dmitry is forced to expose his best ideas on a daily basis, it opens him up to two things,” McCabe said. “Investors can front-run his decisions or they can free-ride his portfolio. Both of those are bad for the manager, and at the end of the day, bad for the investor.”

Bloomberg News