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Mergers and acquisition activities across a number of sectors are picking up rapidly this year. Continued low interest rates are making borrowing cheaper and allowing companies to shore up their balance sheets. This suggests optimism over the global economy.
 
As per Dealogic, the value of mergers and acquisitions across the globe has risen 13% so far this year to $552.4 billion with 4,880 deals. This represents the highest level since the pre-financial crisis level of 2007. U.S. deals make up for nearly three-fifths of the value while China accounts for less than 10% of the deal value.
 
Hot Deals
 
The telecom space so far has been at the forefront with the $45.2 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable (TWC - Analyst Report) by Comcast (CMCSA - Analyst Report). The transaction, pending shareholder and regulatory approval, is expected to complete by the end of this year (read: 3 ETFs to Watch on Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal).
 
The second biggest deal comes from generic drug maker Actavis (ACT), which agreed to acquire Forest Laboratories (FRX) for $25 billion. The deal is expected to close in mid 2014 subject to regulatory approval.
 
This is followed by the $19 billion buyout of mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp by the social media giant Facebook (FB). The transaction is expected to be completed in August should it pass all the regulatory hurdles (read: Facebook to Buy WhatsApp, 3 ETFs to Watch).
 
Further, Japanese beverage company – Suntory Holdings – will purchase U.S. spirits company Beam for $16 billion. The deal, pending regulatory approval, is expected to close in the second quarter and would make Suntory the world's third-largest spirits maker.
 
How to Tap?
 
Investors could easily take advantage of this surge in deals by employing merger arbitrage strategy in their portfolio. This strategy looks to tap the price differential (or spread) between the stock price of the target company after the public announcement of its proposed acquisition and the price offered by the acquirer to pay for the stocks of the target company.
 
This is especially true given that investors should go long on the target or acquired company and short on the acquiring company. When the deal is completed, shares of the target company will increase to the full deal price (in some cases slightly below the deal price), giving investors a nice profit (see: all Hedge Fund ETFs here).
 
Below, we have highlighted three merger arbitrage ETFs to ride out the surge from the increasing M&A deals. Any of these could make compelling options for investors seeking to implement this low correlation strategy to their portfolio:
 
IQ Merger Arbitrage ETF (MNA)
 
This fund offers capital appreciation by investing in global companies for which there has been a public announcement of a takeover by an acquirer while at the same time provides short exposure to global equities as a partial equity market hedge. This is done by tracking the IQ Merger Arbitrage Index (read: Invest Like Top Hedge Funds with This Outperforming ETF).
 
The fund has 35 holdings in its basket with the largest allocation to Morgan Stanley ILF/TREAS/INST, BEAM and LSI Corp. (LSI) on the long side. These three firms combined to make up for 35% share. The product has amassed $27.2 million in its asset base and trades in average volume of less than 7,000 shares a day. Costs come in at 75 basis points a year. The ETF has added about 3% year-to-date.
 
ProShares Merger ETF (MRGR)
 
This product follows the S&P Merger Arbitrage Index, which is a benchmark that holds up to 40 publicly announced deals within developed market countries, keeping about 3% in each company. Capitalsource (CSE), Commonwealth REIT (CWH) and Tokyo Electron occupy the top three long positions in the basket.
 
From a sector perspective, financials take the biggest spot while consumer discretionary and technology round out the top three (read: Bank on Dividends with These Financial ETFs). The ETF has been able to manage assets worth $3.7 million while it sees light volume of just 1,000 shares a day.
 
Credit Suisse Merger Arbitrage Index ETN (CSMA)
 
This is an ETN option tracking the Credit Suisse Merger Arbitrage Liquid Index. The benchmark has several dozen companies, focusing on liquid firms that see positive acquisition premiums which is an offer for substantially all shares outstanding of the target. The note targets deals within the United States, Canada and Western Europe.
 
Some of the top long holdings include Beam, BRE Properties (BRE) and Omnicom Group (OMC) while short holdings include Essex Property Trust (ESS), Publicis Group (PUBGY) and M&T Bank (MTB). The product has $52.2 million in AUM and 5,000 shares in average trading volume while expense ratio came in at 0.55%.
 
Bottom Line
 
While investors could capitalize on merger arbitrage by trading in a particular target company stock, the ETFs provide diversified exposure in the basket form with lower risk. Further, these could be excellent choices for investors in the rocky market due to their low correlation with the overall market (read: 3 Low Risk ETFs for a Stormy Market).
 
This is because companies in merger and acquisition deals generally move independently, ignoring all other issues that influence the movement of other stocks. As a result, investors could definitely focus on these products for relatively higher returns given the intensified tension between Russia and Ukraine that is creating trouble for the world economy and weighing on global growth.
 
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