Changes are afoot for tech companies on the US stock market. S&P Dow Jones Indices and the Global Industry Classification Standard (GICS) have announced that they will create a new sector for tech, media, and telecom companies on September 28 – the first categorization changes for tech companies since 1999.
S&P and MSCI are eliminating the current Telecoms sector, replacing it with a new subdivision called Communications Services. Communications Services will include companies providing communication platforms, as well as media operators, ultimately forming the largest sector on the S&P 500.
Additionally, the new subdivision will integrate companies from the Consumer Discretionary sector that are presently classified under the Media and Internet and Direct Marketing Retail umbrellas. Some companies listed under Information Technology will also transition to the new sector.
The changes aim to reflect an era of immune-to-classification fluidity for some of the world’s largest tech companies – something that was foreign in 1999, during the peak of the first tech bubble. While Apple slots easily into the Technology sector and Communications Equipment industry thanks to the moneymaking machine that is the iPhone, companies like Facebook – a social network, media company, and the world’s largest news distributor, all in one – are more difficult to categorize.
The GICS hopes to better reflect the changes of the past 20 years while reminding investors where listed companies earn the bulk of their revenue. David Blitzer, S&P Dow Jones Indices index committee chairman, declared the lines between media, communications, and content to be “blurred”, admitting that “It is time to acknowledge this convergence and the overlapping services these companies provide.”
Facebook and Alphabet will both move to Communication Services from their previous tech sector categorization, with both companies’ sub-industry changing to Interactive Media and Services. Netflix will move from Consumer Discretionary to Communication (along with Disney and 21st Century Fox) while also changing sub-industry from Internet and Direct Marketing Retail to Movies and Entertainment.
The reclassification effort will affect exchange-traded funds designed to specific industries but will not require action from investors, according to investment giant Vanguard. Chris Harvey, Wells Fargo’s head of US equity and quant strategy, also posited that certain companies “may gain mindshare and potentially garner more portfolio-manager interest/dollars” as investors re-familiarize themselves with the stocks. The company estimated that only 10 percent of the S&P 500 will be influenced by the reshuffling, affecting only categorization, not index weights.
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