Billionaire investor Carl Icahn reiterated his warnings about high-yield bond ETFs in a wide-ranging video released on his website overnight, complaining that these so-called junk bonds "are being sold en masse to the public" by companies such as BlackRock, whose high-yield bond ETF (HYG) holds about $13 billion worth of assets.
"People are buying these not really understanding what they're buying," Icahn said in the video, referring specifically to BlackRock's "junk bond" ETFs.
Ironically, nearly 1 percent of what those people are buying is debt issued by Icahn's company itself.
The HYG ETF holds four separate bonds issued by the investor's company, Icahn Enterprises. These four bonds cumulatively make up 0.7 percent of the ETF — for a total notional value of $91 million, according to data available from BlackRock's ETF arm, iShares.
It is worth noting that BlackRock does not have any say in the holdings of its ETF; the HYG simply tracks the Markit iBoxx USD Liquid High Yield Capped Index. Nor is the presence of Icahn Enterprises bonds in the ETF new; various Icahn Enterprises securities can be found in it going back to April 2012.
Icahn's broader point about high-yield debt is that stimulative Federal Reserve policies have created a stock and bond bubble that will be resolved messily, due to a lack of willing buyers and hence loss of liquidity. BlackRock, for its part, contends that ETFs can provide liquidity and improve market stability
Icahn's office did not immediately respond to a call for comment.