Responsible Funds, Oct. 21: the round-up of ESG funds news

RI fund launches, closes and asset data.

Assets in European SRI retail funds grew by 12% in the year to June 2011 to reach €84bn in 886 retail funds, according to the 11th edition of the “Green, Social and Ethical Funds in Europe Review”, produced by Vigeo, the ESG research company and Morningstar, the mutual funds data group. France is Europe’s biggest SRI retail market (38% of assets), followed by the UK and then Switzerland. The fastest growing market last year was the Netherlands with a market share progressing from 3.7% to 5.1% of assets. For the fourth year in a row, fixed income SRI assets have continued to gain market share relative to equity and balanced, although equity funds still outweigh fixed income funds, 48% to 40%.

Swiss investment firm Mountain Cleantech has announced the first close of its Mountain Cleantech Fund II at €23m, with backing from a corporate investor, funds-of-funds and family offices. With a target fund size of €100mm, the fund aims to become the largest dedicated growth equity Cleantech fund in the German-speaking and Nordic regions.

Phaunos Timber Fund, the closed-end global timber fund managed by FourWinds Capital Management, has released a detailed report about its forest assets. The move is part of its “ongoing dialogue with the investment community” and follows the scandal surrounding Toronto-listed Chinese forestry firm Sino-Forest.

Indian social venture fund Aavishkaar II has attracted a $7.5m investment from €5bn Dutch development finance institution FMO, via its Massif fund. Like its predecessor Aavishkaar I, Aavishkaar II will make equity investments at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ in rural India. FMO Announcement

HSBC Saudi Arabia has launched its new HSBC Amanah Commodity Index Fund, an open-ended Shariah compliant fund. Link

Cleantech investment firm Khosla Ventures has closed its new Khosla Ventures IV fund at $1.05bn. It will be 50% allocated to clean technology, with the rest also going to IT, mobile, and internet technology. Link

Four microfinance funds have been awarded Microfinance Label by LuxFLAG, the Luxembourg Fund Labelling Agency. The vehicles are: Microfinance Enhancement Facility S.A.SICAV‐SIF; Selectum SICAV SIF ‐ BL Microfinance; Etimos Fund SICAV‐SIF; and Dual Return Fund SICAVSIF Vision Microfinance Local Currency.SilverStreet Capital’s new Silverlands Fund, which will invest in farming and agribusiness in Zambia, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Uganda, has had a $20m commitment from UK development finance group CDC. Silverlands will largely invest in primary agriculture by targeting farms producing crops such as grains, soya, fruits, vegetables, sugar, tea, and coffee. CDC news
DBL Equity Fund – BAEF II, the second fund from ‘double bottom line’ venture capital firm DBL Ventures, has received a $10m commitment from the $3bn private health foundation the California Endowment. Announcement

A new social enterprise fund run by Brisbane, Australia-based Foresters Community Finance has been launched with an A$6m (€4.5m) commitment from Christian Super, the A$450m superannuation fund, according to an item on the Sustainability Report. Foresters is one of two asset firms chosen by the government to run the A$20m Social Enterprise Development and Investment Fund (SEDIF). Link

Paris-based cleantech private equity firm BeCapital has had a €150m second closing of its BeCapital Private Equity SCA SICAR, a Luxembourg-based regulated vehicle. It was well above the €100m initial target, the firm said. Investors included mainly European families.
The new UK Solar Income Partnership fund from real estate firm Palmer Capital and renewables firm Low Carbon hopes to conclude institutional fundraising by the end of this month, according to a report in Global Money Management. The fund was launched in September and is seeking £52m (€60m) to buy as up to a third of the UK’s solar parks.

South Africa: the FutureGrowth Agri-Fund has completed its first closing at €40m, according to partner SNS, which adds the fund is modelled on its own African Agriculture Fund and focuses mainly on domestic investors. These include finance giant OldMutual and a leading South African pension fund. “The robust pipeline of investments” means fund manager UFF has already deployed 50% of committed capital, SNS added.

The Guinness Renewable Energy EIS Fund 2 has been launched to target investments in UK energy generating companies that qualify for government Feed-in Tariffs. It will close on November 30 so that funds raised can be fully invested by April 2012, said fund manager Guinness Asset Management.