• US Equity

    Network Effect: A Proven Way to Create a Moat

    09 May 2019
     

    The term “economic moat” describes a company’s ability to maintain its competitive advantages and defend its long-term profitability. This moat investing education series explores the five primary sources of moat, according to Morningstar: 1) switching costs; 2) intangible assets; 3) network effect; 4) cost advantage; 5) efficient scale. Here we explore the concept of network effect.

    Growing Reach Puts Network Effect in Play

    The “network effect" moat source has become more relevant as our world has grown more digital. It describes the phenomenon where the value of a product or service increases as the number of its users grows.

    Network Effect: As more people use a company’s product or service, the value of that product or service increases for both new and existing users.

    The internet is a good example. It originally had few users outside the military and research science spheres, but its expanding user base exploded its reach and impact. More recently, companies like Facebook and Google have been labeled network effect paragons. Morningstar posits that a network effect can help a company to increase its advantages over competitors, and is often an important source of a company's moat.

    The term "critical mass" is often used in connection with the network effect. In game theory, this means that not all game participants need to be convinced for a strategy to succeed, just a very specific portion of them. If this participation threshold is exceeded, the strategy is likely to succeed of its own accord. The network effect works in similar fashion. If the user base for a product or service reaches a critical mass, the network is likely to expand under its own power. Ultimately, however, a company’s ability to monetize a network is also important to consider before network effect can be assigned as a moat source.

    Network Effect in Action

    Visa (V US) dominates the global electronic payments industry. The company controls approximately half of all credit card transactions and an even higher portion of debit card activity.It is a great example of how the network effect can create a powerful competitive advantage. Morningstar says of Visa: “The brand is accepted by approximately 44 million merchants worldwide, with 3.1 billion cards in circulation. Perhaps most important, 16,800 financial institutions worldwide make up the Visa network.”

    Alphabet (GOOG US), with a global share of over 80%, leads the online search market. The company’s network effect is comes primarily from its Google products, which includes search, Android, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, and more. In Morningstar’s view, “Google has the world’s most widely used search engine, and such a large and growing user base has created a network difficult to replicate.”

     

     

     

     

    DISCLOSURE

    1Source: The Nilson Report

    Company-specific information based on Morningstar analyst notes last updated as follows: Visa: 11/19/2018; Alphabet: 10/25/2018.

    This commentary is not intended as a recommendation to buy or sell any of the named securities. Holdings will vary for MOAT and MOAT Index.

    Issued by VanEck Investments Limited ABN 22 146 596 116 AFSL 416755 (‘VanEck’). VanEck is a wholly owned subsidiary of Van Eck Associates Corporation based in New York, United States. VanEck Vectors ETF Trust ARBN 604 339 808 (the ‘Trust’) is the issuer of shares in the VanEck Vectors Morningstar® Wide Moat ETF (‘US Fund’). The Trust and the US Fund are regulated by US laws which differ from Australian laws. Trading in the US Fund’s shares on ASX will be settled by CHESS Depositary Interests (‘CDIs’) which are also issued by the Trust. The Trust is organised in the State of Delaware, US. Liability of investors is limited. VanEck Associates serves as the investment adviser to the US Fund. VanEck, on behalf of the Trust, is the authorised intermediary for the offering of CDIs over the US Fund’s shares and issuer in respect of the CDIs and corresponding Fund’s shares traded on ASX.
    Nothing in this content is a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell shares of any investment in any jurisdiction including where the offer or solicitation would be unlawful under the securities laws of such jurisdiction. This is general information only about financial products and not personal financial advice. It does not take into account any person’s individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Investing in international markets has specific risks that are in addition to the typical risks associated with investing in the Australian market. These include currency/foreign exchange fluctuations, ASX trading time differences and changes in foreign laws and tax regulations. Before making an investment decision in relation to the US Fund you should read the PDS and with the assistance of a financial adviser consider if it is appropriate for your circumstances. The PDS is available at www.vaneck.com.au or by calling 1300 68 38 37. 
    Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. No member of the VanEck group of companies or the Trust gives any guarantee or assurance as to the repayment of capital, the payment of income, the performance or any particular rate of return from the US Fund