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Long/Short Investments in L/S Equity: Valuation and Ideas,

Betting On The Internet Long-Term?

There are many long-term trends in technology expected to gain increasing influence over the coming years and decades, from AI/machine learning, social networking, messaging, 5G, among others.

But a basic thematic certainty is the ongoing profileration of the internet itself, which is more or less the communicative backbone of many technological trends. Currently, the internet has over 80% penetration in the US and just over 50% worldwide at about 3.8 billion users.

With other parts of the economy, we can’t be totally sure about the long-term future of oil, electric cars, industrial metals, brick-and-mortar retail, alternative asset management, and various other industries in transition or secular decline.

But we can be pretty sure that the internet’s value, facilitated by the concomitant rising wealth in emerging markets and falling production costs of electronic computing devices, will continue to increase over time. Not only in terms of the volume of participants, but the means by which the internet is used as a means to facilitate economic and financial transactions.

For those wanting broad exposure to the internet and want to approach it thematically rather than focus on individual names, there are “internet ETFs” available.

The most prominent one is SPDR’s XWEB fund. It contains 64 holdings. Just 20% of the monetary weighting goes to the top 10 assets and 29% to the top 15%. All but the last six holdings have weightings above 1% and the largest holding is just 2.22%, making the distribution fairly equitable.

The expense ratio is reasonable for a niche ETF at 0.35% (e.g., $35 for every $10,000 invested).

As would be obvious, all companies predominantly make their businesses online, with almost zero brick-and-mortar representation. Though the distinction is somewhat arbitrary, firms are either considered “tech” companies or “consumer discretionary,” in a 70/30 split, respectively, with many focused more on retail operations rather than software. Hardware and semiconductor companies are excluded.

Many on the list are household names, or at least close to it – Groupon (GRPN), Nutrisystem (NTRI), Twitter (TWTR), Netflix (NFLX), Pandora (P), Yelp (YELP), Facebook (FB), Expedia (EXPE), Priceline (PCLN), Amazon (AMZN), eBay (EBAY), among others.

The fund is nonetheless predominantly slanted toward small and micro cap stocks (67%), given the evenness in the asset weighting scheme. Large caps are just 12% of the fund.

A complete list of the holdings can be found below: