Just two months after MSCI introduced its China mega-cap index, the first exchange-traded funds (ETFs) tracking the new index began trading in China on Monday, armed with $4 billion, matching the money tracking the long-established FTSE China A50.
The red-hot debut of the four ETFs – two in Shanghai and two in Shenzhen – came after the funds, based on the MSCI China A50 Connect Index (.MICN0A5C0PCY), raised 26.7 billion yuan ($4.17 billion) in China.
That put the MSCI index, which was launched on Aug. 20, virtually at par with the roughly $4 billion in global ETF money currently tracking the rival FTSE China A50 Index (.FTXIN9C), which was launched in 2003.
Global index publishers are in a fierce battle to woo investors with innovative tools to bet on China’s giant onshore “A share” market, and MSCI’s big splash will put pressure on FTSE Russell to come up with something new.
Having seen investor interest in its flagship China A-share index fade in the past few years, FTSE Russell, part of the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG.L), said on Friday it had recently launched consultations with market participants regarding the use of its China A index offering, and was reviewing the results for possible changes.
FTSE China A50 has a wide market impact but MSCI has the late-mover advantage, said Duan Shihua, head of Shanghai Changer Investment Management Consulting.
The winner of the duel must “understand investors’ need, attract big money followings, and have a liquid derivative market” based on the index, he said.
The four new ETFs – managed by China Asset Management Co (ChinaAMC) (159601.SZ), E Fund Management Co (563000.SS), China Southern Asset Management Co (159602.SZ) and China Universal Asset Management Co (560050.SS) – attracted huge interest on their first day of trading.
Combined turnover of the four ETFs exceeded 10 billion yuan. ChinaAMC’s product saw debut trading hit 3.6 billion yuan, a record for a Chinese ETF.
The underlying MSCI China A 50 Connect Index selects 50 mega-cap stocks in the A-share market, and fund managers tracking the index say it adopts a more balanced approach in sector allocation than the FTSE A50.
“The index gives more weight to China’s new economy stocks, such as new energy, tech and healthcare, while avoiding overweighting of financial or consumer staples,” said Jialiang Li, fund manager at Southern Asset Management, which launched one of the MSCI A50 ETFs.
The MSCI index is likely to become an investment bellwether for foreign investors as it provides a better reflection of China’s economy, Li said during a roadshow ahead of the ETF debut.
MSCI has also partnered with the Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing Ltd (0388.HK) in launching futures products based on the MSCI China A50 Connect Index, challenging Singapore Exchange’s SGX FTSE China A50 Index Futures.
FTSE Russell has said that an established ecosystem around the FTSE China A50, including a liquid derivative market, is a “trump card” for the index.