European LP News, January 2013

EIF Warms to Corporate Cleantech Fund

A €20 million ($26 million) commitment from the European Investment Fund (EIF) has lifted Paris-based Aster Capital’s second venture capital fund to more than €105 million ($135 million).

Aster II will have a global focus on startups operating in the energy, advanced materials and environmental sectors.

It should close before the end of the year, possibly slightly below its target of €110 million to €120 million ($155 million).

“We have some final discussions with other potential investors but it is unclear whether they will commit or not,” Jean-Marc Bally, managing partner at Aster, told VCJ.

Other key investors in Aster II include French energy and chemical multinationals Alstom, Solvay Rhodia and Schneider Electric.

“Our participation in Aster II is fully in line with our strategy to extend our collaboration with corporates and further integrate them in the venture capital ecosystem,” says Richard Pelly, CEO of the EIF.

Aster’s first fund raised €50 million ($66 million) in 2010 and was raised under its previous identity of Schneider Electric Ventures.

Italy Wins Gulf Support for Domestic Fund

Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has agreed to co-anchor a new private equity fund to invest in Italian companies.

The fund, called IQ Made in Italy Venture, will start with €300 million ($387 million) and grow to €2 billion ($2.6 billion) over four years through equal commitments from Qatar Holding and the FSI, Italy’s strategic investment fund.

The two parties will jointly manage the fund.

Although the FSI was set up in 2011 to support “strategic” industries such as defense, transportation and energy, the new fund will target food, fashion, leisure and furniture businesses, among others.

That is because the FSI is allowed to back non-strategic companies if they have sales of more than €240 million ($310 million).

The FSI is mainly funded by state-controlled bank CDP.

Institutionals Add Alternatives Despite Complexity

The last decade has seen institutional investors increase their allocations to alternatives, such as private equity, without any understanding of the asset class, according to a study released by Boston-based State Street.

The complexity of alternative investments was a concern for more investors (31% of the survey) than any other issue, including the impression that such investments make with ratings and regulatory agencies and the demands of trustees.

Respondents also indicated that the biggest weakness of their employees was a lack of understanding of potential risks.

Nonetheless, the International Monetary Fund has estimated that global pension funds grew their alternatives holdings between 2006 and 2010 from 11% to 16%, a trend the IMF forecasts to continue.

Compiled by Alex Derber

Photo: A structure showing the Euro currency sign is seen in front of the European Central Bank headquarters in Frankfurt. Reuters/Alex Domanski