Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets Shares ETF (ASX: VGE) Review

Long-time readers of the blog will know that my investing strategy is focused on long-term holding of exchange traded funds (ETFs). I spend a lot of time assessing various ETFs and today I’m back with another ETF review, this time of the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets Shares ETF (ASX:VGE). In this VGE review I’ll go through how this ETF is structured, its performance and answer the question about whether I would hold VGE myself.

“Around thirty years ago, emerging markets made up about 1% of world equity market capitalization, and just 18% of global GDP. However, today the story is much different, with EM now representing nearly 60 percent of global growth and more than 50 percent of global GDP”

SGH.com

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ASX VGE review

VGE overview

The Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets Shares ETF (ASX:VGE) looks to track the return of FTSE Emerging Markets All Cap China A Inclusion Index (with net dividends reinvested). VGE holdings are mostly in technology, financials, and consumer discretionary, with most of the market allocation based in China and Taiwan.

The aim is to provide low-cost exposure to companies listed in emerging markets while keeping Australian dollar exposure. Therefore, there is no foreign currency hedging.

Benefits of investing in this Vanguard ETF:

Competitive long-term performance – Vanguard’s investment approach provides investors with an efficient way to capture long-term market performance.

Diversification – The Fund invests in a diversified portfolio of securities, which means the Fund is less exposed to the performance fluctuations of individual securities.

Low cost investing – The Fund has low ongoing fees as we strive to minimize the costs of managing and operating the Fund.”

Vanguard

Let’s get into a more detailed VGE review.

The details

The Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets Shares ETF (ASX: VGE) is currently managing approximately AUD$445.6 million across more than 5,000 holdings, and it is known as one of the best Vanguard ETFs. VGE trades under the ASX code of “VGE” and AU000000VGE8 ISIN code.

Since its inception in November of 2013, Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets ETF, which is domiciled in Australia, has shown a reliable performance and continues being an excellent value as it has a management fee of 0.48% p.a. with no additional costs. It trades on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) among other Vanguard Emerging Markets funds. Therefore, it is fully regulated, and reports are available on their website.

Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets Shares ETF is par of Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets funds, which offer an efficient way to capture market performance with a diversified portfolio of securities while reducing costs.

The NAV price of the Vanguard FTSE ETF is updated daily. However, the pricing is quoted continuously on the ASX AQUA market. Additionally, fund distribution is done quarterly: in March, June, September, and December. The ETF trades in units with a $50 transaction cost applied for redeeming the VGE unit.

Market allocation and sectors

Most of the market allocation is in China (42.5%), followed by Taiwan (16.5%) and India (11.0%). The rest of the allocation is distributed across several other emerging regions as part of the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets diversification strategy.

The market allocation of VGE is predominantly Asian countries, as you'll see in this VGE review
VGE Market allocation, Vanguard Fact sheet, November 2020

When looking at the sector allocation for the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets Shares ETF, we can see a strong weight on technology (24%), financials (19%), followed by consumer discretionary (18%).

VGE ASX ETF has a strong weighting on technology
VGE Sector allocation, Vanguard Fact Sheet, November 2020

The top 10 holdings for the VGE are China-based companies. They account for 26.2% of total underlying assets, with Alibaba Group Holdings Ltd, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, Ltd, and Tencent Holdings Ltd being the top three for the Vanguard ETF.

This VGE review includes an overview of the top 10 VGE holdings
VGE Top 10 holdings, Vanguard Fact Sheet, November 2020

Performance

VGE ASX has performed in line with its benchmark FTSE Emerging Markets All Cap China A since its inception. It has shown reliable performance with a 67.55% return since its inception compared to the 76.41% for the benchmark of FTSE Emerging Markets All Cap China A Inclusion Index. Check out Vanguard Investments for the most up to date information on the Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets Shares ETF.

VGE performance shows that the ETF has performed in line with its benchmark
VGE Total returns since inception, Vanguard
VGE, Growth of 10,000 since inception, Vanguard

Would I own VGE?

So, the discussion of whether I would own VGE really comes down to two things. Firstly, asset allocation (and risk) and secondly cost (management fee).

Currently I get my international (ex US) exposure from the Vanguard VEU ETF which I bought to diversify out of my Australian home bias with the A200 fund, and to hedge my bets against just US stocks which I use the VTS ETF for.

In terms of asset allocation, VGE is really a fund that would provide me more exposure to the ‘emerging sector’ – namely Chinese, Taiwanese and Indian companies. More generally speaking, other current emerging market economies include India, Mexico, Russia, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia – all of which seem to be included in the VGE umbrella in some percentage. 

Looking at the top ten holdings of VGE and VEU, we can see there are actually a lot of similar names – Tencent, Alibaba and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

VGE is more heavily weighted to China and Taiwan – approximately 44% and 16%, respectively, compared to the VEU weighting of 7.5% and 3%, respectively. 

Ultimately, VGE is designed to be exactly this – a higher exposure to the emerging or immature markets, and the idea being you can ‘cash in’ on this emerging market as it matures and grows in capital value. Be wary about diverging too far from the index and reasonable global asset allocation strategies though – it may start to sound like those active stock pickers who frequently ’shift investment lanes’ and end up no further ahead in life.   

Of course, reward is not without risk. Emerging markets like China can be thought of as very high risk. I would suggest anyone thinking of investing in VGE to watch The China Hustle on Netflix so as to understand the differing financial landscape and unique risks involved. With that context set, Investopedia also has a great article on emerging market funds.

Conventional wisdom would suggest not to have more than around 10% of your portfolio in emerging markets, and to be honest, I think that is probably good advice. Older references like InvestmentNews suggests 10 to 15%, whereas some newer commentators like SGS recommend a smaller percentage of around 5%. 

So, where am I sitting? Well, with my current target portfolio looking something like a very simple 1/3 AUS, 1/3 USA, and 1/3 world (ex US)  (it’s almost like a child chose those proportions, no?) I can actually dive a little deeper to see what my current exposure to emerging markets is.

Vanguard shows that the emerging markets actually makes up about one quarter of the VEU fund. Now there are conjectures around the internet about this figure, with some suggesting it is closer to 20%. So, put simply, since I am targeting a ⅓ split between VEU:VTS:A200, that means my target exposure to emerging markets should be simply ⅓ of 20-25% – or around 6.6- 8.3% 

And let’s stop over thinking there. My intended VEU split provides me PLENTY of exposure to emerging markets, and there is no need for me to complicate things any further.  

Oh and the last thing – VGE currently has a management expense ratio of 0.48%, yet I am paying a cool 0.08%.  I am pretty happy to be ticking all of the boxes of reasonable asset allocation, ultra diversification, an efficient ETF structure with an incredibly low management expense ratio.

So bottom line – no, I will not be investing in the Vanguard VGE fund.

VGE review: Conclusion

Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets Shares ETF (ASX:VGE) looks to track the return of FTSE Emerging Markets All Cap China A Inclusion Index (with net dividends reinvested). VGE holdings are mostly in technology, financials, and consumer discretionary, with most of the market allocation based in China and Taiwan. 

Emerging markets are higher risk investments when compared to established markets or ‘blue chip’ ETFs, and conventional wisdom would be not to invest more than 10% into emerging markets, with some suggesting that threshold should be lowered to 5%.  

After analysing VGE through this review, I personally am not investing in VGE, as I achieve more than enough emerging markets and international diversification through my holdings in VEU.

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2 thoughts on “Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets Shares ETF (ASX: VGE) Review

  1. I’ve always wondered about adding VGE to the mix – a great write up and I think I’ve come to pretty much the same conclusion as you.
    As I progress on in my investment journey the more I find my thinking leaning towards Lar Kroijer’s approach (of which 66% of your portfolio represents)

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