Kevin O'Leary On How His E-Commerce And Internet ETF Is Thriving In A Volatile Market

June 21, 2019: 07:21 AM ET

Volatility is taking over the markets as trade war discussions between the United States and China heat up. Across the board, nearly all sectors are seeing a fallback, and this rings especially true within technology and e-commerce.

Despite current trends, tech and e-commerce ETFs have remained comparatively resilient to the overall market, and perhaps the most resilient of these ETFs is the O'Shares Global Investment Giants (NYSE: OGIG). OGIG is one of O'Shares four ETFs, sitting alongside OUSA, OUSM and OEUR.

OGIG, which is the company's specific internet technology and e-commerce ETF, is up around 29% year to date and has beaten the markets in the wake of the trade war. Its primary design centers around a quality growth approach that evaluates and ranks e-commerce and internet companies based on revenue growth, profitability and strength of their balance sheet.

Benzinga spoke to O'Shares CEO Connor O'Brien to learn more about the secret to OGIG's success, as well as future expectations for how the internet technology and e-commerce sectors will fare as trade tensions progress.

OGIG is a quality-growth ETF made up of some of the largest internet technology and e-commerce companies in the world. Its fundamental structure focuses on quality and revenue growth.

"The quality approach basically means measuring the fundamental metrics of companies such as revenue growth, profitability, and debt levels, scoring them all, ranking them all, and excluding the ones that have bad measures," according to O'Brien.

The fund's 10 most substantial holdings include Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG), Alibaba (NYSE: BABA), Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).

Behind the scenes, there exists a meticulous process in selecting stocks for the OGIG ETF Index. O'Brien explained how his team utilizes these following steps when deciding to add a new e-commerce or internet company to the fund:

Kevin O'Leary, O'Shares co-founder and chairman, explained that e-commerce and internet stocks have high growth potential in the marketplace.

“The growth investments most interesting to me are e-commerce and Internet companies that have what it takes to keep growing," he said. "Large e-commerce and Internet companies, with strong balance sheets, growing the top line and earnings are the stocks I want to own. OGIG does it all for me in one ETF, owning 60+ e-commerce and Internet stocks."

OGIG Doesn't Get Caught Up By the Big Names

OGIG differentiates itself from typical tech ETFs in a few distinct ways. Firstly, the fund may avoid big name brands that no longer have the high rolling numbers.

When comparing OGIG to other significant indexes like the NASDAQ 100, O'Brien explained how OGIG does not create confusion in the markets by holding companies that aren't pure internet technology and e-commerce. Specifically, he mentioned how some Nasdaq 100 tracking funds carry brands like Kraft Heinz (NASDAQ: KHC), which are incompatible with their fund's sector.

"People may not actually understand what they're buying," said O'Brien. "When they buy a pure tech-sector fund from the grand-daddies of the sector-fund business, they don't realize that there's a whole bunch of large low growth technology companies."

OGIG Goes Global

The ETF has a large percentage of holdings outside of the U.S. Specifically, about 70% of the ETF is U.S. securities, 20% is Asia-focused securities and 10% is other global securities.

O'Brien believes having around 30% of OGIG's holdings outside of the U.S. will allow it to own many great e-commerce stocks that are in other markets.

The One Year Quality Measure

OGIG has implemented a one-year quality measure into its stock picking system to avoid dangerous companies that are burning too much cash to maintain their survival.

O'Brien referred back to some of the lessons learned during the dot-com bubble burst in the early 2000s as a reason to meticulously find profitable companies.

"Twenty years ago, people were valuing companies based on eyeballs and clicks on the site and those crazy things...But there are still companies that are burning massive amounts of cash, more than they might be able to finance going forward," O'Brien explained.

"If you look at our ETF, the O'Shares Global Internet Giants ETF (OGIG), we actually have a quality measure: the company has to have enough cash on the balance sheet to cover any burn rate for at least one year because we don't want to invest in poor quality companies that are burning too much cash to maintain their survival."

O'Shares also discovered and implemented a stock performance indicator into their OGIG stock-picking methods based on pure revenue growth. Meaning: “when you evaluate companies for forward revenue growth, we have found that it can be a good predictor of future stock performance because it looks at the business performance of the company.”

Despite the extreme volatility caused by trade war talks over the past few months, O'Brien believes concerns are exaggerated. From a macroeconomic level, he noted how U.S. exports to China make up a significantly smaller ratio of total U.S. GDP when compared to China imports as a percent of China GDP.

"I don't think you should be so scared about the trade war," he said. "Some individual stocks are going to get killed if the trade war goes the wrong way. But the U.S. economy has less than 0.6% of its total GDP coming from exports to China. So the U.S. economy is going to get through this relatively well and will likely come out better off on a multi-year basis."

Further, O'Brien noted how the ability of the U.S. to export their commodities elsewhere puts them in a much more stable position than China. He also mentioned how companies that receive supplies from China, such as Nike (NYSE: NKE), can move their factories to other places around the world in the event of high tariffs on Chinese exports.

O'Brien also believes there is a demand for U.S. exports outside of China, but there is less worldwide demand for Chinese exports.

The biggest U.S. exports to China include commodities and Boeing planes; if China continues to pressure the U.S., O’Brien believes the U.S. can start sending the commodities elsewhere and China needs the planes.

"The U.S. has a lot less to lose, and China has massively more to lose if we're looking at dollars to dollars," O'Brien said.

O'Brien believes that, in general, people should start considering long-term investing more. He used an eye-opening number to explain his point.

"There's a phenomenal stat. Look at someone who started investing when they were 20 and is now 65. If that person were an average American and had invested 10% of every paycheck in stocks, they'd now have over $1 million," he said.

In particular, O'Brien recommends the average investor buy a set of five to 10 ETFs with securities that they are passionate about. By doing this, he believes people will have the opportunity to grow their savings while continuing to earn money through work.

He emphasized the importance of finding ETFs with stock selection processes that are diligent and sensible.

As ETFs become more common among the average investor, they will likely become more specialized in their relation to the market. OGIG, and the rest of the O'Shares arsenal of ETFs are already leading the way on this path of innovation.

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